Today’s theme song is brought to you by Midlake:
In 1941, President Roosevelt coordinated funding and construction of the Douglas Dam to supply hydroelectric power to various institutions of the war effort. This new facility would also produce aluminum for uranium enrichment that was being processed by the Manhattan Project at its Oak Ridge site around 50 miles away. Check out my blog Secret City of Bombs and Mud for more info on that.
Workers had just recently finished construction of the Cherokee Dam so experienced laborers, equipment, and materials were already close by. It only took about 12.5 months to complete the Douglas Dam, which was as unheard of back then as it is now.
Like other TVA projects, entire communities were sacrificed to make way for the greater good. There are around 520 known families who were uprooted, their homes destroyed, and their farms and cemeteries flooded to create this dam.
However, many first and second-hand accounts relay the compassion and great efforts the TVA agents extended in helping and compensating the families in this area who were willing to give up what little they had. Not all of the projects were reported to have developed so amicably.
One community now known as the city of Dandridge was spared such a fate by TVA’s installation of some smaller earthen or “saddle” dams which still protect the town today.
Several thousand acres of forests were cut down, but just as many jobs were created. The dying local railroad company was revived and saved from bankruptcy after being commissioned to transport materials, and the people collectively understood that if they did not contain these floods, it would eventually ruin them all.
As engineers, scientists, heavy equipment, and all sorts of new industries moved into the area during construction, the community also benefited by learning new skills and gaining knowledge that helped them manage their lives and environment around them in more modern, efficient, and easier ways.
Douglas Dam is one of some fifty TVA dams near East Tennessee, stretching over 1700 feet across the French Broad River and standing over 200 feet high. It creates a reservoir that lends nearly 30,000 acres of water and more than 500 miles of shoreline for recreational use.
The facility itself runs four generators that consistently surpass 100 megawatts of power produced in excess of its own needs.
Visitors are not allowed to walk or drive across this dam like the super popular Norris Dam, but you can still have a picnic, camp out, birdwatch, and go boating or fishing. You can do a bit of walking around the dam as well.
I visited the Trotter Bluff Small Wild Area right across from the Douglas Dam Campground and took my dog on the one mile hike. The lightly marked path had dozens of others extending from it, but you can easily tell where they all come together into one big loop. It was serene, loaded with chestnut trees, wildflowers, trillium, and has a great view of the water.
For more context, check out this documentary about the development of TVA:
In the area for a while? Follow me to the historic city of Dandridge!
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