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Elephant Butte Dam
Elephant butte dike.jpg
Country United States
Location Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
Status In use
Construction began 1911
Opening date 1916
Dam and spillways
Type of dam Gravity
Impounds Rio Grande
Height 301 ft (92 m)
Length 1,674 ft (510 m)
Width (crest) 18 ft (5 m)
Width (base) 228 ft (69 m)
Dam volume 618,785 cu yd (473,095 m3)
Creates Elephant Butte Lake
Total capacity 2,065,010 acre·ft (2.547152329×109 m3)
Catchment area 28,900 sq mi (75,000 km2)
Surface area 36,500 acres (14,800 ha)
Power station
Hydraulic head 140 ft (43 m) (rated)
Turbines 1 x Francis turbine
Installed capacity 27.95 MW
Annual generation 38,449,061 kWh
Elephant Butte Dam
Elephant Butte Dam under construction 1914.JPG
The spillway is in the lower left corner of the picture and the power plant is located at the base of the opposite side of the dam.
Elephant Butte Dam is located in New Mexico
Elephant Butte Dam
Location Sierra County, New Mexico
Nearest city Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
Coordinates 33°09′14″N 107°11′32″W / 33.153969°N 107.192113°W / 33.153969; -107.192113Coordinates: 33°09′14″N 107°11′32″W / 33.153969°N 107.192113°W / 33.153969; -107.192113
Built 1910
Architect Louis C. Hill
Architectural style Other
Governing body U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
NRHP Reference # 79001556[1]
Added to NRHP April 9, 1979

Elephant Butte Dam or Elephant Butte Dike is a concrete gravity dam on the Rio Grande river near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The dam impounds Elephant Butte Reservoir, which is used for both recreation and agriculture. The construction of the dam has reduced the flow of the Rio Grande to a small stream, with high releases occurring only during the summer irrigation season, or during years of exceptionally heavy snow melt.

Dam at Elephant Butte, on Rio Grande, near Truth or Consequences, NM (postcard, circa 1916)

The dam is part of the Rio Grande Project, a project to provide power and irrigation to south-central New Mexico and west Texas. The United States Congress authorized construction of the dam on February 25, 1905 and it began in 1911. It was completed in 1916 but allowed to begin filling in 1915.[2]

Elephant Butte Dam is 301 feet (91.7 m) high, 1,674 feet (510.2 m) long including the spillway and is made from 618,785 cubic yards (473,095 m³) of concrete.[2] The width at the top of the dam is 18 feet (5.5 m) and 228 feet (69.5 m) at the base.[3]

The reservoir has a capacity of 2,065,010 acre feet (2.54715×109 m3) of water[2] and controls the runoff from 28,900 square miles (74,850 km²).[3] It provides irrigation to 178,000 acres (720 km²) of land. The dam also contains a 27,945-kilowatt hydroelectric powerplant. The current turbine was installed in 1940 and generates 38,449,061 kWh per year (as of 2005).[2] The crest elevation is 4390 ft (1338 m).[4]

At the time of its construction, the dam was the largest irrigation dam ever built with the exception of the Aswan Dam in Egypt.[5] It was expected that the dam would become the property of the local settlers once a water tax had reimbursed the government for the cost of construction. During construction the government used a system of 3 cables, each having a capacity of 15 tons and a span of 1,400 feet (430 m).

The name "Elephant Butte" refers to a volcanic core similar to Devils Tower in Wyoming. It is now an island in the lake. The butte was said to have the shape of an elephant.

Dam site, Elephant Butte (postcard, circa 1916-1924)


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Elephant Butte Powerplant". Rio Grande Project. Bureau of Reclamation. December 28, 2005. Archived from the original on September 26, 2006. Retrieved October 11, 2006. 
  3. ^ a b "Elephant Butte Dam". Dataweb. Bureau of Reclamation. August 22, 2006. Archived from the original on September 27, 2006. Retrieved October 11, 2006. 
  4. ^ "Elephant Butte Dike". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved 2006-05-12. 
  5. ^ "Great Elephant Butte Dam Approaching Completion". Popular Mechanics Magazine. January 1915. Retrieved 9 February 2009. 

External links[edit]

EBID. "Elephant Butte Irrigation District". Retrieved 1 May 2014. 

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant_Butte_Dam — Please support Wikipedia.
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2723 videos foundNext > 

Elephant Butte Impact: Lake Levels Near Elephant Butte Dam

This video shows how upstream drought has impacted Elephant Butte Lake in Southern New Mexico. Water released from the lake into the Rio Grande supplies ...



Elephant Butte Dam - Sierra County Centennial Video Series

This video tells the story of the Elephant Butte Dam (a National Historical Engineer Landmark with the ASCE) and how it came to be constructed in this particular ...

Elephant Butte Dam

Lake Elephant Butte, NM, Man made lake.

Come Fish With Us At Elephant Butte Lake Dam Site Marina!!! (CLOSED)

We will be making a video at the Dam Site Marina at Elephant Butte Lake May 16th any everyone is invited to be a part of it! This event is for all ages. The Dam ...

Floating the Rio Grande from Elephant Butte Dam to Truth or Consequences

The 5-mile stretch starts at Paseo del Rio campground, just below Elephant Butte dam and ends at Rotary Park in Truth or Consequences. There are three short ...

Fishing At The Dam Site Marina With My YouTube Friends

The Dam Site Marina is a great place to fish. There are many species of fish waiting to be caught such as bluegill, crappie, catfish, walleye, white bass, striper ...

MMM Skipping Rocks at Elephant Butte Dam in NM 06/06/2012

MMM tries to skip rocks at Elephant Butte Dam in New Mexico.

NM True TV Elephant Butte Lake

For much of its winding travels through New Mexico the Rio Grande is a quiet river. But above the Elephant Butte Dam it becomes a massive lake, filled with just ...

Boats on Elephant Butte Lake, Labor Day weekend 2013

View of people on various watercraft, playing out on the lake - video taken at the overlook next to Elephant Butte Dam. Labor Day weekend 2013.

2723 videos foundNext > 

63 news items

KRQE News 13

Las Cruces Sun-News
Tue, 30 Jun 2015 17:02:49 -0700

The Bureau of Reclamation gave NMSU $35,000 for the project to inspect Elephant Butte Dam in New Mexico. NMSU will collaborate with the Bureau of Reclamation staff to develop the concept of operations, address safety requirements, select the ...
New Mexico State University NewsCenter
Tue, 07 Jul 2015 15:05:04 -0700

The Bureau of Reclamation has selected New Mexico State University to be its lead unmanned aircraft system subject matter expert to perform the first Reclamation dam inspection. This proof of concept aeronautical research project will occur at Elephant ...


Thu, 20 Aug 2015 08:22:30 -0700

Much further south in New Mexico, I visited Elephant Butte dam. This large dam, built in 1916, covers a total of 34,521 acres, when full. Today it was only 15% full, and the overall depth was 4 feet. Because of this, I was surprised to see a ...
Las Cruces Sun-News
Tue, 11 Aug 2015 10:48:30 -0700

The completion of the Elephant Butte Dam in 1916 and the straightening of the Rio Grande for flood control and agricultural endeavors depleted the diversity of aquatic wildlife and habitat in the southern reach of the Rio Grande. "The river has been ...
Las Cruces Sun-News
Sun, 29 Apr 2012 20:42:07 -0700

LAS CRUCES — For almost a century, the Rio Grande has come to a stop at what was once the largest man-made reservoir in the world. From there, through the spillway of the Elephant Butte Dam, the river waters become part of a complex irrigation network ...

UAS Magazine

UAS Magazine
Thu, 02 Jul 2015 08:33:45 -0700

New Mexico's team will perform research at Elephant Butte Dam in New Mexico, a project estimated at $35,000 that the Bureau will fund. The New Mexico team will work with Reclamation staff to develop the concept of operations, address safety ...
Seattle Post Intelligencer (blog)
Thu, 12 Apr 2012 04:37:30 -0700

Just east of my current location in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico is Elephant Butte Lake which was created by the Elephant Butte Dam. As always you may left click upon an image to see an enlarged view and then click once again to see an even larger ...

Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal
Fri, 03 Jul 2015 22:41:48 -0700

According to Article VII of the compact, New Mexico can only store water in upstream reservoirs such as El Vado in Rio Arriba County when water levels at Elephant Butte Dam near Truth or Consequences and Caballo Dam 15 miles farther south rise above ...

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