History of the Ocoee Dams

History of the Ocoee Dams

Ocoee Dam number one was the first hydroelectric dam built in the state of Tennessee and one of the first in the country. Construction was started in 1910 and in January 1912 the plant initially began generating electrical power. This was 21 years before TVA was formed by the TVA act by Congress. Household electricity was first introduced in 1905 so Ocoee number one was built to satisfy the earliest initial demand for home electricity. It was not until 1930 that a milestone was reached with 70% of households having electrical service. The location chosen for Ocoee Dam No. 1 was just to the east of the more mountainous region currently known as the Cherokee National Forest. The area was a small community called Parksville and a Grist mill stood on the actual dam site at the time. The Dam construction took 18 months and the cost to build was less than three million dollars. A unique facet of the project is that a small town was actually built to house the workers and dam builders. 1500 workers and their families lived in the town which featured its own waterworks department, fire and police, several stores and a hospital. Foundations of some of the town’s buildings are still existing and can be seen from the east end of the lake. Powerlines were then built to transport electricity to Chattanooga, Knoxville and even Nashville, TN.

Ocoee Dam number one

Ocoee Dam Number Two was completed in 2013 just one year after Dam number one started generation. Dam Number two has unique construction. It is a relatively low dam, only 30 feet in height and originally was a timber structure filled with rock and boulders. On one side of dam is a gate and a wooden flume. The water from the small lake above Ocoee number two enters the flume through the gate. The flume is almost five miles long and only drops 18 feet in elevation in that five miles. Once it reaches the end of the flume the water drops 250 feet down a large metal pipe to reach the generators of power house number two. The drop gives water the force of a much higher dam.

Ocoee Dam Number Three has a construction that is even different from the first two dams. The dam is upstream of Ocoee Dam number two by over four miles and is a concrete dam roughly 110 feet high. Rather than generate electricity at the bottom of the dam however they drilled a tunnel through the mountain to reach the powerhouse four miles downstream. This allowed the engineers to create even more power by utilizing the elevation drop of the river. At the end of the tunnel is a large pipe 180 feet above the powerhouse which releases water for the turbines. The dam and the river in this upper stretch are located in a valley between two major mountains in the area. Big Frog mountain to the south and Little Frog mountain to the north. Number Three was built in 1940 to supply additional power for the area manufacturing expansion for World War II.

Ocoee Dam number three