Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in History (PhD)

Degree Level





Jeannie M. Whayne

Committee Member

Elliott West

Second Committee Member

Patrick Williams


Social sciences, Earth sciences, Arkansas, Dams, Man-made lakes, Water use


The need to manage the rivers of Arkansas has been a driving force in developments that have resulted in dramatic changes to the geographical "face" of Arkansas over the last 200 years. These changes are the creation of man-made lakes throughout the state, where before, there had been none. The many lakes that dot the Ozarks and the Ouachitas were created by dams. There are 1,251 dams over 25 feet in height, or that impound more that 50 acre-feet of water, in Arkansas, and uncounted smaller dams. No matter their size, dams were constructed to manage the rivers and streams of the state for flood control, power development, navigation, municipal water supply, recreation, irrigation, and for other uses. Between 1836, when Arkansas became a state, to 1945, there were 112 dams constructed in the state. This study examines the historical context of the dams that were built before 1945, when the construction of dams was more local, less politicized, and less complicated. It examines the purposes for which dams were constructed, who built them, and why. It is based on the National Inventory of Dams database, which records all dams in the United States and territories that are over 25 feet in height, or that impound more than 50 acre-feet of water. While the NID is not an exhaustive list of all the dams in Arkansas, it is an invaluable tool for identifying dams by year completed, primary purpose, owner type and owner name, all of which are an entry point for discussing the history of dams in Arkansas.