Photo of Dale Hollow Dam, with a dam with water pouring through the turbines, people in lower left looking up at it.


Old Hickory Dam

Nashville District
Published Jan. 11, 2024


The Old Hickory Lock and Dam, located on the Cumberland River at mile 216.2 in Sumner and Davidson Counties, Tennessee, and are approximately 25 miles upstream from Nashville, Tenn. The City of Hendersonville is situated on the northern shoreline of the lake and the City of Old Hickory is located on the southern side of the lake, just upstream of the lock and dam. The lake extends 97.3 miles upstream to Cordell Hull Lock and Dam near Carthage, Tenn.

Old Hickory Lock and Dam was authorized for construction by the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1946 as a unit of a comprehensive development plan for the Cumberland River Basin. The project was designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and built by private contractors under the Corps of Engineers' supervision. Construction started in January 1952, and dam closure was completed in June 1954. The project was completed for full beneficial use in December 1957 with the placement of the final hydroelectric power unit in operation. The lock, dam, powerhouse, and lake are operated and supervised by Corps of Engineers' personnel under the direction of the Nashville District Engineer. Old Hickory Lake is a mainstream storage impoundment on the Cumberland River operated by the Corps of Engineers. The reservoir contains 22,500 surface acres at an elevation of 445 feet above mean sea level (MSL). Water level fluctuations are minimal with minimum pool elevation at 442 feet MSL. Public facilities include eight marinas; two Corps operated campgrounds, and 41 boat access sites.

The reservoir is essentially a run-or-river type without regulating storage other than for incidental flood control through surcharge operation, and for pondage for power generation and lockages; hence, low water flow of the river will be increased only indirectly through the use and passage of discharges from upstream plants.  Such releases, however, result in a more sufficient and higher quality of water for domestic and industrial consumption and use are effective in pollution abatement downstream.  Due to the fairly constant level maintained under normal operating conditions, the reservoir is well suited for conservation and recreational purposes.




In the generation of power, water from the reservoir enters gate-controlled intakes into the powerhouse, rotates the turbines, and discharges through draft tubes into the river below the dam.  Generators, mounted on the same shafts with the turbines, produce the electric current.  It is increased in voltage by transformers and carried from the power plant by transmission lines leading from the switchyard.

The power plant is operated so as to use as much of the water flow as possible for power production:  during periods of high stream flow, the spillway gates are opened to pass the water in excess of the capacity of the turbines and as necessary for retention and regulation of floodwaters through surcharge operation.  The upper portion of the reservoir, corresponding to a five-foot depth above the normal headwater level, is provided for surcharge storage.  This storage space is utilized by raising all of the spillway gates in small equal increments, thus permitting passage of some water under them but retaining or forcing into storage all inflow to the reservoir in excess of the spillway discharge and power releases.


Pertinent Data

Statistical Information

Operating Levels at Dam:


   Maximum surcharge pool

area: 27,450 acres    El.450

Normal Operation:


   Full pool

area: 22,500 acres    El.445

   Minimum pool area: 19,550 acres    El.442
   Length (backwater to Cordell Hull L & D) 97.3 miles
   Shoreline, length at El. 445 440 miles
Storage (flat pool assumption), acre-feet:    

   Surcharge flood storage (El. 450-445)

   Pondage allowance for power (El. 445-442) 63,000
   Permanent pool (below El. 442) 357,000
   Total volume at El. 450 545,000  
   Clear chamber dimensions, feet 84 by 400

   Water depth over sills at normal pool levels, feet 

17.0 upper; 13.0 lower
   Lift at normal pool levels, feet 60
   Minimum lock filling time at normal head, minutes 12.6
   Type Concrete-gravity and earth fill
   Maximum height, feet 98
Length, feet:    
   Powerhouse section 380
   Spillway section 355
   Navigation lock (top width) 145
   Earth embankment 2,870
   Total, structures 3,750
   Net width opening, feet 270
   Discharge capacity, cubic feet per second 236,000
Crest gates:  
   Number and type 6,tainter
   Size, width and height, feet 45 by 41
Volume content, cubic yards (approx.) :    
   Concrete structures 351,000
   Embankment section 440,000

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