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


Wolf Creek Dam

Nashville District
Published Jan. 11, 2024

History of Wolf Creek Dam

The Wolf Creek Project was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1938 and the Rivers and Harbor Act of 1946.  Construction of the project, designed and supervised by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, began in August 1941.  After a three-year delay caused by World War II, the project was completed for full beneficial use in August 1952.

The dam was completed for flood control operation in 1950.  Three of the six hydroelectric generating units were placed in operation in 1951 and the remaining three in 1952.  Operation of the lake is for the primary purposes of flood control and the production of hydroelectric power.  The cost of the project was approximately $80.4 million.

The dam, powerhouse, and lake are operated and supervised by Corps of Engineers’ personnel under the direction of the District Engineer at Nashville, Tennessee.


Wolf Creek Dam & Hydropower

The Lake Cumberland reservoir is 101 miles long in length and has 1,255 miles of shoreline, providing a total storage capacity of 6,089,000 acre-feet (1 acre-foot = 1 acre, 1 foot deep or 325,850 gallons).  The upper portion of the reservoir containing 2,094,000 acre-feet of area, is used to hold floodwaters which would otherwise cause flooding downstream.  Such impounded water is utilized to the maximum extent possible for power production and the surplus water is released through the spillway gates after any flood danger had passed.

Of the remaining 3,995,000 acre-feet of reservoir capacity, 2,142,000 acre-feet, corresponding to a drawdown of 50 feet, is allocated specifically for power operation, leaving a minimum pool of at least 1,853,000 acre-feet available at all times for public use and conservation purposes.  The electrical energy produced by the project is sufficient to supply the needs of an average city with a population of 375,000.  Incidental to the production of power, the water released through the turbines provides a favorable streamflow below the dam.  In supplementing low flows, this water improves domestic water supply, reduces stream pollution and provides aid to navigation.

The reservoir normally fluctuates between 50,250 acres at the top of the power pool and a minimum surface area of 35,820 acres.  During periods of high inflow, when it is necessary to utilize the floor storage, the surface area may reach 63,530 acres.  However, such floods occur infrequently, and the levels resulting from minor floods and power operations do not seriously interfere with most recreational activities.







Concrete-gravity and earthfill



   Concrete, cubic yards


   Earthfill, cubic yards




   Maximum height, feet


   Length, feet (concrete, 1796; earth, 3940)


Elevations (above mean sea level):


   Top of dam


   Top of gates


   Spillway crest


Spillway crest gates:


   Number and type

10, Radial

   Size (width and height), feet

50 X 37

   Discharge capacity, c.f.s.




   Number of conduits


   Size (width and height), feet

4 X 6

   Total discharge capacity, c.f.s.







270,000 kw in 6 units

Rating, each generator, kilowatts


Estimated energy output, average yearly, kilowatt-hours






Drainage area, square miles:


Length of pool at Elev. 760, river miles:


Length of shoreline, pool at Elev. 760, miles:


Area, acres:


   Top of flood-control pool (Elev. 760)


   Maximum power pool (Elev. 723)


   Minimum power pool (Elev. 673)


Storage capacities, acre-feet:


   Flood control (Elev. 760 - 723)


   Power drawdown (Elev. 723 - 673)


   Dead (below Elev. 673)


   Total (below Elev. 760)


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