Hardy Dam

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Hardy Hydroelectric Plant
Hardy Dam Muskegon River DSCN1145.JPG
Hardy Dam powerhouse
Hardy Dam is located in Michigan
Hardy Dam
Location within the state of Michigan
Location Big Prairie Township, Newaygo County, Michigan
Nearest city Newaygo, Michigan
Coordinates 43°29′18″N 85°37′56″W / 43.48833°N 85.63222°W / 43.48833; -85.63222Coordinates: 43°29′18″N 85°37′56″W / 43.48833°N 85.63222°W / 43.48833; -85.63222
Built 1931
Architect Burd, Edward M.
Architectural style Spanish Colonial Revival
Governing body Private: Consumers Energy
NRHP Reference # 97001479[1]
Added to NRHP Dec. 1, 1997

Hardy Dam (or Hardy Hydroelectric Plant) is a dam and powerplant complex on the Muskegon River in Big Prairie Township, Newaygo County, Michigan. At the time of its completion, it was the largest earthen dam in North America east of the Mississippi, and is still the third largest earthen dam in the world and the largest east of the Mississippi River. Its impoundment forms a lake with over 50 miles of shoreline. The dam impounds a reservoir of 4,000 acres (1,618 ha) and is capable of producing 30,000 kilowatts of electricity.


After considerable investigation and planning, the Hardy was built in 1931 under the direction of Edward M. Burd, and is named for George E. Hardy, a financial partner with Anton Hodenpyl. Hardy and Hodenpyl (who also had a dam named after him) oversaw the Commonwealth and Southern holding company that Consumers Energy, was part of from 1910 through the 1920s. It used the semi hydraulic method of construction.

Hardy was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on Dec. 1, 1997. The listing notes the Spanish Colonial architecture of the powerplant buildings, including the oil house, intake, dormitory and powerhouse.[2]

Historical marker text[edit]

Historical Marker at the site

Constructed from 1929 to 1931, on a site once known as the Oxbow, the Hardy Hydroelectric Plant was built by Consumers Power Company. The plant was named for George Hardy, a partner in the firm that financed Consumers' projects from 1911 through 1928. The complex includes a Spanish Colonial Revival-style powerhouse and intake tower, an oil house, and a dormitory. It originally included four operator's houses on the eastern bank of the pond, which were Sears-Roebuck kit homes. Due to advancements in fossil fuel steam generating plants, this was the last conventional hydroelectric plant built by Consumers. The Hardy plant in listed in the National Register of Historic Places.[3]


Approximately 2,000 campsites, several boat launches and a marina are located around the dam. The parks located on the impoundment lake of the Hardy Dam include, Newaygo County's Sandy Beach Park, Newaygo State Park, Mecosta County's Brower Park, and Big Prairie Township's Ox Bow Park and Big Bend Park.

The reservoir offers excellent fishing and a nature trail system regarded as one of the best. The three mile unpaved path parallels the Muskegon River and contains 26 different trees with identification plaques. The trail area is home to wild turkeys, grouse and bald eagles as well as beaver, mink and otter. Fishing includes salmon, steel head, rainbow trout, brown trout, walleye, bass, perch and other pan fish.[4]

The Muskegon dam system[edit]

The three dams, Rogers, Hardy, and Croton (all owned and operated by Consumers Energy), are operated in different modes but in concert give a net run of river effect on water flow. The Rogers itself has little or no impoundment and runs in run of river mode, passing through as much water as it receives. The Croton and Hardy work in concert. The Hardy, which has a larger capacity reservoir, larger turbines, and is upstream of the Croton, runs in full peaking mode, meaning that the river flow is impounded and used to generate electricity during peak demand periods. This causes wide fluctuations in water flows and reservoir levels, typically with low outflow during the night when power demand is lowest. Full peaking was once very common but because of the outflow fluctuations, is now less common. However, with the Croton immediately downstream, and with no river segment (the Croton impoundment stretches back to the Hardy outlet), it can be run in re-regulation mode, allowing a natural flow rate to exit. The Croton reservoir level fluctuates inversely with the Hardy, rising during the day and lowering at night. Since the Hardy reservoir is so large, its reservoir level fluctuates about 4 inches (10 cm) in total, while the Croton reservoir fluctuates about 9 inches (23 cm). During the winter and spring runoff, the Hardy is allowed to fluctuate much more. It can be drawn down up to 12 feet (4 m) to meet winter power demand but is required to return to normal levels by the end of April each spring.[5]

Together, the three dams of the Muskegon River (Rogers, Hardy and Croton) can generate about 45,500 kilowatts, with about 30,000 of that from Hardy, which is enough electricity to serve a community of nearly 23,000.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "MICHIGAN - Newaygo County". National Register of HistoricPlaces. National Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 2008-11-06. 
  2. ^ "Croton Hardy Business Alliance". Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  3. ^ text of marker, marker data from "Hardy Hydroelectric Plant page". Michigan Historical Markers site. Retrieved October 3, 2007. 
  4. ^ a b "Muskegon River Hydroelectric Resources". Consumers Energy website. Retrieved September 2, 2007. 
  5. ^ "Balancing Flows and Power Production along the Muskegon River". 2005 Hydro Reporter, pages 9 and 11, found embedded in the Michigan Hydro History PDF. Archived from the original on May 8, 2007. Retrieved September 7, 2007. 

External links[edit]