World Facts

The Largest Reservoirs in the United States

Bull Shoals Lake in Arkansas and Amistad Reservoir in the Texas-Mexico border are the largest reservoirs in the US.

The United States is known for huge construction projects, many of which cost billions of dollars. Among the many examples of these projects are dams which are constructed for numerous reasons including energy production and flood prevention. Construction of dams leads to the formation of large artificial lakes behind the dams which are known as reservoirs. The United States has some of the largest reservoirs in the world. The two largest in the country is Bull Shoals Lake in Arkansas and Amistad Reservoir in the Texas-Mexico border.

The Largest Reservoirs in the United States

Bull Shoals Lake

Bull Shoals Lake is a huge artificial lake situated near the Ozark Mountains in the states of Arkansas and Missouri. The reservoir was formed after the construction of the Bull Shoals Dam in 1951 which impounds the White River. At the time of the dam’s construction, Bull Shoals Dam was the 5th largest dam in the world. Bull Shoals Lake is the largest reservoir in the United States and covers a total surface area of 5.76 million acres. The maximum length of the reservoir stretches 80 miles, while its average depth is 75 feet and is 210 feet deep at its deepest point. The primary purpose for the formation of the Bull Shoals Lake was for flood control. Bull Shoals Lake is a top tourist attraction in Arkansas and is ideal for water activities such as water sports, fishing, and swimming. Another key attraction near the reservoir is the Bull Shoals-White River State Park covering 725 acres which has numerous facilities including camping, pavilions, and picnic sites. The waters of Bull Shoals Lake have an elevation of 654 feet above sea level. However, in 2008 heavy rain experienced in the White River’s upstream caused the water levels in the reservoir to reach an unprecedented elevation of 695.02 feet above sea level.

Amistad Reservoir

Amistad Reservoir is a large artificial lake which lies partly in Val Verde County, Texas, and Acuna Municipality of Coahuila, Mexico. Amistad Reservoir is located at the confluence of the Devils River and the Rio Grande River. The reservoir was formed after the construction of the Amistad Dam which impounded the waters of the Rio Grande River and Devils River. Amistad Reservoir covers a total surface area of 5.658 million acres, making it the second-largest reservoir in the United States. There is a large park found on the American shores of the reservoir known as the Amistad National Recreation Area which is a prime tourist attraction. The Amistad Dam was constructed between 1964 and 1969. Construction of the Amistad Dam was a joint effort of the United States and Mexican governments after the two countries signed a treaty in 1944 aimed at the construction of a hydro-electric dam on the site. Management of both the dam and the reservoir is handled by the International Boundary and Water Commission, an international body formed by the Mexican and American governments.

Impacts of Reservoirs

Reservoirs are a critical source of fresh water for the communities living around the reservoirs. The reservoirs also have other purposes including the regulation of water levels which is important in averting floods in a river’s downstream regions. The large American reservoirs also act as tourist attractions from the parks and recreation areas found on the shores. However, the establishment of reservoirs can also have detrimental effects, especially in the biosphere. The formation of Amistad Reservoir led to the submerging of Goodenough Spring which was the only wild habitat for the Amistad gambusia, a fish species. The species was declared extinct in 1987.

The Largest Reservoirs in the United States

RankNameCapacity (Acre-Feet)Capacity (Km^3)Surface Area (Acres)Surface Area (Hectares)DamRiverYear Constructed
1Bull Shoals Lake5,760,0007.10571,24028,830Bull Shoals DamWhite River1951
2Amistad Reservoir5,658,6006.9864,90026,300Amistad DamRio Grande1969
3Dworshak Reservoir3,469,9004.2816,4186,644Dworshak DamN.F. Clearwater River1973
4Center Hill Lake2,092,0002.5818,2207,370Center Hill DamCaney Fork1948
5Don Pedro Reservoir2,030,0002.50412,9605,240New Don Pedro DamTuolumne River1971
6Canyon Ferry Lake1,997,9002.46435,18114,237Canyon Ferry DamMissouri River1954
7Beaver Lake1,950,0002.40531,70012,800Beaver DamWhite River1966
8Belton Lake1,876,7002.31537,34015,110Belton DamLeon River1954
9Dale Hollow Reservoir1,706,0002.10427,70011,200Dale Hollow DamCaddo River1972
10American Falls Reservoir1,672,6002.06356,00023,000American Falls DamSnake River1978
11Cherokee Lake1,541,0001.90128,78011,650Cherokee DamHolston River1941
12Douglas Lake1,461,0001.80228,42011,500Douglas DamFrench Broad River1943
13Brownlee Reservoir1,426,7001.7615,0006,100Brownlee DamSnake River1958
14Arkabutla Lake1,383,8001.70730,00012,000Arkabutla DamColdwater River1943
15DeGray Lake1,377,1001.69918,0007,300DeGray DamCaddo River1972
16Broken Bow Lake1,368,2301.68818,0007,300Broken Bow DamMountain Fork1968
17Allegheny Reservoir1,300,0001.60421,1808,570Kinzua DamAllegheny River1965
18Banks Lake1,275,0001.57326,90010,900Dry Falls Dam, North DamGrand Coulee1949
19Abiquiu Lake1,192,8011.47112,4305,030Abiquiu DamRio Chama1963
20Cedar Creek Reservoir1,085,0001.33834,00014,000Joe B. Hogsett DamCedar Creek1965
21Alamo Lake1,043,0001.28717,0006,900Alamo DamBill Williams River1968

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