The Dams and Their Builders
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"We wanted those dams to have the honest beauty of a fine tool, for TVA was a tool to do a job for men in a democracy."
--David Lilienthal

In October 1933, construction began on Norris Dam, located on the Clinch River. The dam was named after Senator Norris, who had campaigned for TVA's creation. The following month workers began building Wheeler Dam. 9,173 people were working for TVA by June 1934. Sixteen dams were built by TVA between 1933 and 1944.

An Assembly Line of Dams.

Each dam along the Tennessee Valley is unique in its design, but TVA dams can be divided into two general types. The higher dams were built on the tributaries to the Tennessee River--the rivers that flow into the Tennessee. These dams flooded large areas of land, creating huge reservoirs. Norris was 285 feet tall, Hivassee 307 feet, and Fontana 460 feet.

The dams along the Tennessee River were lower and broader. They were designed to control navigation and flooding on the Tennessee River. Locks allowed ships to pass from one dam to the next, which opened up a 650 mile channel to Knoxville from the Ohio River. Tonnage of river market trade increased from 32 million ton-miles in 1933 to 161 million ton-miles in 1942.

TVA dams were a popular destination for tourists. During the Depression, one thousand people a day visited Wilson, Wheeler and Norris Dams.