Kerr Dam

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This article is about the dam in Montana. For the dam in Virginia, see John H. Kerr Dam.
Kerr Dam
2011-06-07 17-17-11 996.jpg
Kerr Dam
Location Flathead Indian Reservation, Lake County, Montana, USA
Construction began 1930
Opening date 1938
Operator(s) NorthWestern Energy, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes
Dam and spillways
Impounds Flathead River
Height 205 ft (62 m)
Length 541 ft (165 m)
Total capacity 1,217,000 acre·ft (1.501 km3)
Catchment area 8,587 sq mi (22,240 km2)
Surface area 191.5 sq mi (496 km2)
Power station
Commission date 1938-1954[1]
Turbines 3 units
Installed capacity 194 MW[2]
Annual generation 1,100,000,000 KWh annually

Kerr Dam (Ktunaxa: ʔa·kniǂk̓aʔnuk [3]) is a concrete gravity-arch dam located at river mile 72 of the Flathead River, increasing the size of Flathead Lake near Polson, Montana. The dam was designed for hydroelectricity but also serves recreational uses. The dam is named after Frank Kerr, president of the Montana Power Company at the time of the dam's completion in 1938.[4]


Water flowing out of the Kerr Dam out of only one of the several doors

In 1930, construction began on the dam by Rocky Mountain Power. A year later in 1931, a lack of funding from the Great Depression caused construction to halt. Montana State Treasurer James Brett went to Atlanta in 1934 to ask President Franklin Roosevelt for $5,000,000 to complete the dam. Knowing that the area was in desperate need of jobs, Roosevelt gave Brett the money and he came home to a hero's welcome. In 1936, the Montana Power Company restarted the project and completed it in 1938. The dam only raised Flathead Lake by 10 feet so it is not completely responsible for the reservoir. The dam's hydro power plant consists of three units that receive water from three different penstocks 1700 feet upstream.[5]

Joint operation[edit]

A rainbow forming over the Kerr Dam in Montana

The dam and its related hydroelectric project are located inside the boundaries of the Flathead Indian Reservation, and operated jointly by NorthWestern Energy and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Today, with an installed capacity of 194 MW, it provides both power—enough for about 147,000 homes—and over $9 million in annual revenue for the tribes. NorthWest Energy acquired the power plant from PPL Montana, LLC (the successor to the Montana Power Company) in 2015. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes will acquire Kerr Dam on Sept, 5 2015 for a price of $18.3M dollars. [5]

In literature[edit]

The plot of the novel “Wind from an Enemy Sky” by D’Arcy McNickle is centered around the construction of Kerr Dam.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Clock ticking down to Kerr Dam's historic takeover by Indian tribes". Missoulian. 25 April 2015. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  2. ^ "NorthWest Hydro Acquisition" (PDF). NorthWest Energy. p. 3. Retrieved 21 May 2015. 
  3. ^ "FirstVoices: Nature / Environment - place names: words. Ktunaxa.". Retrieved 2012-07-07. 
  4. ^ Kerr Dam, PPL Montana
  5. ^ a b Kerr Dam Essay
  6. ^ Vince Devlin (2012-03-28). "Film shares Arlee teacher's success at instilling tribal perspective". The Missoulian. Retrieved 2012-09-06. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 47°40′36″N 114°14′03″W / 47.67667°N 114.23417°W / 47.67667; -114.23417