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Yellowtail Dam, Fort Smith

#199 of 222 in Parks in Montana
Dam · Hidden Gem · Nature / Park
Yellowtail Dam is a dam across the Bighorn River in south central Montana in the United States. The mid-1960s era concrete arch dam serves to regulate the flow of the Bighorn for irrigation purposes and to generate hydroelectric power. The dam and its reservoir, Bighorn Lake, are owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

The project was the result of negotiations between the federal government and the Crow Nation, the tribe of Native Americans that lived on the surrounding Crow Indian Reservation, and was originally envisioned as a shared facility that would provide profits for both sides. Eventually, the land was sold to Reclamation, although much of the reservoir, which extends 72 miles (116 km) upstream into Wyoming, lies in the reservation. The dam was authorized in 1944 and groundbreaking was in 1961; it was completed in 1967 after six years of construction.

Today aside from its original purposes the dam serves for recreation both above and below the structure. Regulation of the Bighorn provided by the Yellowtail Dam has transformed the lower river into one of Montana's premier trout streams. However, there has been significant controversy surrounding the allocation of water in the reservoir between Montana and Wyoming, and the ecological damage wrought on 184 miles (296 km) of river both above and below the dam.
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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
14 reviews
  • We wanted to see the Yellowtail Dam. First we saw some beautiful sceneries, near the Yellowtail Dam. Red mountains. Wow! We also saw the river passing us by. We went to the Yellowtail Dam and we...  more »
  • Really enjoyed visiting the Visitors Center and walking around the exhibits and the viewing area. We also drove to the Mariana which is about 10 mile away on the Crow Reservation  more »

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