"Old" Waddell Dam (Lake Pleasant, Arizona)

Waddell Dam: Bringing Life to the Desert

By 1925, a group of local farmers headed up by William Beardsley to build Lake Pleasant Dam. Finding investors, mostly in New York, they raised over three million dollars to build a dam.Their intent was to control the flood of the Agua Fria River which varied greatly by season.The project was named the Carl Pleasant Dam and began being built in 1926. When completed in 1928, the Carl Pleasant Dam was the largest multiple arch concrete dam in the world. The massive structure stood 76 feet tall and 250 feet long with a crest length of 2,160 feet. The total storage capacity was 157,000 acre-feet of water.

Images

"Carl" Pleasant Dam
"Carl" Pleasant Dam The "Carl" Pleasant Dam, later renamed Waddell Dam, was constructed between 1926 and 1928, creating the upper portion of Lake Pleasant. At the time, it was the largest agricultural Dam in the world. The dam stood 76 feet in height and 2,160 feet in length. At 126 feet above streambed, its elevation was 1,601 feet (above sea level). It created a Lake with 3,706 surface acres of water having a shoreline of 50+ miles. Date: c. 1928
Carl Pleasant Dam
Carl Pleasant Dam When completed in 1928, the Carl Pleasant Dam was the largest multiple arch concrete dam in the world. The massive structure stood 76 feet tall and 250 feet long with a crest length of 2,160 feet. The total storage capacity was 157,000 acre-feet of water. Date: 1929
Frog Tanks Station (currently under Lake Pleasant)
Frog Tanks Station (currently under Lake Pleasant) A stop on the stage route to Castle Hot Springs. Additionally the local store provided supplies for miners and others. It became the site of the Waddell Dam. William B. Pratt in 1890 thought it would be a good idea to build a dam across the Agua Fria river and make a lake to hold water for the thirsty miners along the Humbug and Castle Creeks. During construction of the dam, a two room hotel, a stage station, and more were constructed. Then, a flood in 1891 destroyed the dam project but the town lived on for at least another five years as a gateway to the Bradshaw Mountains. Source: Peoria Historical Society Date: c.1890
William Beardsley standing near project.
William Beardsley standing near project. William Beardsley continued his brother George's project to help dam the Agua Fria River near what is now Lake Pleasant. Beardsley formed the Agua Fria Water and Land Company. After nearly 30 years of struggling with funding and pursuing various deals, William Beardsley hired engineer Carl Pleasant to assist with designing. Pleasant recommended hiring the engineer firm Peckham and James to draft plans for the storage dam at the Frogs Tank site. The gravity dam design was dropped, and a relatively new, cheaper and improved but controversial design was adopted: the multiple-arch buttress dam. In 1925, under a new state law, Beardsley was able to create the Beardsley-Agua Fria Water Conservation District. Under the new district, funds could be raised through a bond issue. On December 20, 1925, the construction contract was signed, but the bonds had yet to be purchased. Source: Peoria Historical Society Date: c. 1900
Buttress for Dam Under Construction
Buttress for Dam Under Construction Notice cement mixing plant on the right side of the picture. this is a major part of the operation of taming the river. Source: U.S. Library of Congress
Old Waddell Dam in Relationship to current Lake Pleasant
Old Waddell Dam in Relationship to current Lake Pleasant This photo illustrates relationship of the "old" dam with the current Lake Pleasant Dam. When completed in 1927, the Old Waddell Dam was the largest concrete arch and buttress dam in the world. It spanned 1,260 feet and was 176 feet above the deepest part of the stream bed. In 1936 a roadway was added to the top of the dam. In the mid-1980's the Central Arizona Project (CAP) folks decided to build a larger dam 1/2 mile downstream. This new Waddell Dam was completed in 1992 - it is an earthen dam. The new dam added tremendous capacity to Lake Pleasant, whose function is to be a storage facility for the CAP. The CAP canal system transports water from the Colorado river to Southeastern Arizona. The new dam allows water levels to tower 100 feet over the top of the old dam by the end of March each year. Source: http://www.porter-az.com/Waddell.htm Date: 2000

Location

Metadata

William M. Bercu Ph.D., “"Old" Waddell Dam (Lake Pleasant, Arizona),” Salt River Stories, accessed May 23, 2024, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/249.