Gravity dam

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A gravity dam is an engineering structure that by its own weight resists the forces imposed with a desired factor of safety. Gravity dams are designed so that every dam section is stable, independent of any other dam section.[1][2]

The most common classification of gravity dams is by the materials composing the structure:

  • Composite dams are a combination of concrete and embankment dams. Construction materials of composite dams are the same used for concrete and embankment dams. Folsom Dam is a composite dam.

Gravity dams can be classified by plan (shape):

Gravity dams can be classified with respect to their structural height:

  • Low, up to 100 feet.
  • Medium high, between 100 and 300 feet.
  • High, over 300 feet.



  • Kollgaardand, E.B.; Chadwick, W.L. (1988). Development of Dam Engineering in the United States. US Committee of the International Commission on Large


  • Dams of the United States - Pictorial display of Landmark Dams. Denver, Colorado: US Society on Dams. 2013.