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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 33.153969°N 107.192113°W / 33.153969°N 107.192113°W / 33.153969; -107.192113Coordinates: 33.153969°N 107.192113°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. After construction, the amount of water continuing to flow downstream in the Rio Bravo lessened to a stream a foot deep. Río Bravo, or Río Bravo del Norte, is the name given in Mexico to the river known in the United States as the Rio Grande.

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] from a drainage of 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] It is at an elevation of 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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Elephant Butte Impact: Lake Levels Near Elephant Butte Dam

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once a year walking tour.

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

Boats on Elephant Butte Lake, Labor Day weekend 2013

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Ski Boat on Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico

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215 news items

El Paso Times

El Paso Times
Sun, 14 Dec 2014 20:05:08 -0800

CLINT >> In a decade of severe drought, irrigation authorities below Elephant Butte Dam have struggled for ways to conserve water and farmers have struggled to stay in business. A series of dry years drew down the reservoir, resulting in the shortest ...

El Paso Times

El Paso Times
Sun, 14 Dec 2014 20:05:08 -0800

As part of a 2008 agreement intended to settle other disputes, the irrigation districts below Elephant Butte Dam now can carry over up to 60 percent of one year's full allotment to the next. That allows them to bank water in the reservoir from wet ...

El Paso Times

El Paso Times
Sat, 13 Dec 2014 22:08:59 -0800

Water managers south of Elephant Butte Dam have already taken major steps to conserve. The El Paso Water Utility will begin true water recycling in 2018 and irrigation districts on both sides of the border are upgrading their infrastructure to better ...
Fri, 12 Sep 2014 15:06:32 -0700

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico State Police say blasting caps and deteriorated dynamite has been disposed of after being found in a manhole near Elephant Butte Dam. It's unclear how long the items had been there. Authorities say ...
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 ...
National Geographic
Fri, 18 Jan 2013 08:46:10 -0800

Texas charges that New Mexico's pumping of groundwater in the region below Elephant Butte Dam to the New Mexico-Texas border is reducing Rio Grande flows into Texas, thereby depriving the state's farms and cities of water they are legally entitled to ...

Deseret News

Deseret News
Wed, 19 Feb 2014 03:59:27 -0800

It was here that Colonel Cooke ordered the battalion to blaze a new trail on the western side of the Rio Grande. This added greatly to the challenge of the journey. One of the photos here shows the Rio Grande just below the Elephant Butte Dam, looking ...
Fri, 24 May 2013 13:30:16 -0700

From "Space Place" in Elephant Butte, Spaceport America visitors will enjoy an informative tour as they pass Elephant Butte Dam and media mogul Ted Turner's 350,000-acre Armendaris ranch, traveling the historic El Camino Real (Royal Road) to Spaceport ...

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