The Dam that Couldn’t Hold Water

Photo of the Week

Hales Bar Dam

Hales Bar Dam, completed in 1913, was originally built by the Tennessee Electric and Power Company (TEPCO), and taken over by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA – 1929) as part of its flood control and hydroelectric generation network on the Tennessee River.

Hales Bar Dam (2014)

Hales Bar Dam (2014)

Unfortunately, the river bottom at the Hales Bar site was riddled with cracks and leaks into underground caves. For two decades, TVA tried to stop the leakage. That, plus needed improvements proved to be too costly and the TVA replaced Hales Bar Dam with Nickajack Dam six miles further downstream, not far from Hog Jaw Valley.

What remains is the power generating building. The dam, that extended across the river from the far end of the power generating building was removed after Nickajack Dam was completed.

While it was in operation, the original dam provided a “bridge” across the river. I am told that school children would walk through the dam from Hales Bar to the far side of the river to go to school. As late as 2013, “ghost tours” were an attraction at the old dam. I have no idea whose ghost they expected to encounter.

Hales Bar is a popular resort spot on Lake Nickajack, with a marina, RV camping, boat ramps, and floating cabins for rent above the old dam.

Photographs © 2015 Jeff Richmond

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2 Responses to The Dam that Couldn’t Hold Water

  1. reading up on Hog Jaw valley was interesting too – the eerie silence of a power station is bound to summon ghosts! Lovely stillness caught here

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