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The Failure of Teton Dam

The failure of Teton Dam resulted in the loss of 11 lives and millions of dollars in property damage. Today, Bureau of Reclamation engineers assess all Reclamation dams under strict criteria established by the Safety of Dams program. Each structure is periodically reviewed for resistance to seismic stability, internal faults and physical deterioration. The goal of the Safety of Dams program is long-term stability of the dam to protect lives, property, and insure the physical integrity of the dam.

Teton Dam near Rexburg, Idaho suddenly failed on first filling of the reservoir in 1976. To determine what impacts occurred in this upstream canyon reach (from the filling of Teton Reservoir and subsequent failure of Teton Dam), a geomorphology and river hydraulics study was completed by Reclamation during 1997-2000, more than 20 years after the dam failure. When Teton Dam failed, the reservoir was 270 feet deep (at the dam) and drained in less than six hours. The filling and the subsequent rapid draining of the reservoir triggered more than 200 landslides in the river canyon that was inundated by the former reservoir.


Teton Dam Spillway

View of the Teton dam spillway.

Teton Dam Spillway

Teton Dam collapse. June 5, 1976

Teton Dam Collapse

Teton Dam collapse. June 5, 1976

Teton Dam after collapse

View of Teton Dam after collapse.


Final Report, May 2000


Last Update: January 6, 2015 3:29 PM