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Glen Elder Unit
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Pick Sloan Missouri Basin Program
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Glen Elder Unit Project History (92 KB) (pdf)
General Description| Plan| Development| Benefits
General Description

Glen Elder Unit, Solomon Division of the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program was part of the comprehensive development plan for the Missouri River Basin presented in Senate Document 191, 78th Congress, 2d Session, April 1944. It was specified as one of six units in the Smoky Hill River Basin required to meet flood control and irrigation needs of the basin.

Glen Elder Unit is located in the Solomon River Valley in Osborne, Mitchell, Cloud, and Ottawa Counties in north-central Kansas. The unit consists of Glen Elder Dam and its reservoir, Waconda Lake, protective dikes, and appurtenant structures. The dam is a multipurpose structure on the river approximately 6.5 miles below the confluence of the north and south forks of the Solomon River in Mitchell County immediately above the town of Glen Elder. Waconda Lake parallels U.S. Highway Number 24 and the Missouri Pacific Railroad from Glen Elder to Downs, Kansas.

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Glen Elder Dam is one of the key flood control features in the Kansas River Basin. The dam provides a high degree of flood protection to the lower Solomon River Valley and, when operated in conjunction with other basin reservoirs, contributes effectively to the control of flooding on the lower Smoky Hill and Kansas Rivers. The dam also provides municipal and industrial water for Beloit, Kansas, on the Solomon River about 12 miles downstream, and three rural water districts; together with recreation, fish and wildlife conservation, and water quality benefits. After satisfying these purposes, sufficient yield is available from the reservoir to irrigate about 30,000 acres of potential project lands located immediately downstream of the structure, should that project function be authorized.

Facility Descriptions
Glen Elder Dam and Waconda Lake

Glen Elder Dam is an earthfill structure 15,275 feet long with a crest width of 30 feet, a maximum base width of 1,008 feet, and a maximum embankment height of 115 feet above the streambed. The structure`s maximum height above the foundation is 142 feet. The dam contains approximately 10,026,000 cubic yards of embankment materials. A rim dike, 1,825 feet long, was constructed across a low saddle immediately north of the left abutment to complete the dam`s crest.

Waconda Lake has a total storage capacity of 963,775 acre-feet allocated as follows: 1,236 acre-feet for dead storage at elevation 1407.8 ft; 35,435 acre-feet for inactive storage at elevation 1428.0 ft; 204,789 acre-feet of conservation capacity at elevation 1455.6 ft; and 722,315 acre-feet for flood control at elevation 1488.3 ft.

At the top of conservation capacity, elevation 1455.6 ft, Waconda Lake has a surface area of 12,602 acres with 100 miles of shoreline. At the top of the flood capacity, elevation 1488.3 ft, it has a surface area of 33,682 acres. The surcharge elevation is 1492.9 feet and at this level the total reservoir capacity is 1,128,741 acre-feet of water.

The surcharge of 173,000 acre-feet in combination with spillway capacity of 264,500 cubic feet per second gives protection against the inflow design flood, having a peak of 437,000 cubic feet per second and a 3-day volume of 900,000 acre-feet.

The spillway structure, located in the right abutment, is controlled by twelve 50- by 21.76-foot radial gates. Both a county highway bridge and a separate operating bridge span the 644-foot wide spillway structure. The spillway channel opens into the Solomon River approximately 1 mile northeast of the spillway structure A separate river outlet works structure is located in the left abutment adjacent to the original river channel. It consists of a trashrack-protected intake structure, a steel lined 12.5-foot diameter inlet conduit, a gate chamber and access shaft with a 9- by 12-foot emergency gate, a 12.25-foot pipe inside a concrete horseshoe conduit, a conduit access house, a steel bifurcation pipe section encased in concrete, two 6.5- by 8-foot high-pressure control gates, a control house, and a stilling basin. A 12.25-foot-diameter steel pipe stub was provided immediately ahead of the bifurcation section for a future irrigation diversion outlet works.

Glen Elder Dikes

Appurtenant works include protective dikes at Cawker City and Downs to keep reservoir waters from flooding low-lying areas, coupled with diversion drains above the towns to prevent local storm water from flooding behind the dikes. Both dikes have sump storage areas and pump equipped outlet works to discharge excess storm water into the reservoir. Other facilities include recreation and fish and wildlife developments.

Operating Agencies

The Bureau of Reclamation operates and maintains the unit.

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Settlers first began to arrive in this vicinity in the late 1850`s; however, the heaviest influx, which coincided with reports of excellent area crops and the building of access railroads, occurred in the late 1870`s. The population of the area reached a peak in 1890 but has declined since the 1920`s. The principal exception to this trend is Beloit, which has experienced a consistent population growth.

Since its earliest settlement, the Solomon River Valley has experienced many damaging floods, indicating the critical need for flood control measures. As a result of a disastrous flood in 1951, plans were formulated for construction of sufficient flood control structures to solve this problem. Kirwin and Webster Reservoirs were constructed first as part of a multi reservoir flood-control plan, with their capacities designed for future incorporation of Waconda Lake storage. Construction of Glen Elder Dam and Waconda Lake was completed in January 1969.

The city of Beloit had formerly obtained its municipal water supply from the surface flows of the Solomon River. These proved to be inadequate, and, at times, restrictions on use were imposed. The city therefore requested that a municipal water supply be included as a project purpose of the Glen Elder Unit, which has resulted in the unit providing water to that city as well as to three rural water districts.


Field investigations prior to construction of the Glen Elder Dam and Waconda Lake were originally conducted in 1940 as a part of a reconnaissance of the Solomon River Basin. The investigations were performed at several sites by the Bureau of Reclamation and the Corps of Engineers. After a devastating flood in July 1951 on the Kansas River, to which the Solomon River was a large contributor, it was determined that the potential reservoir should have a capacity of about 900,000 acre feet. This conclusion, the review of data obtained during foundation and materials exploration programs, and considerations of the influence of the potential dam and reservoir on local communities and land areas were major factors in the final site selection.

A definite plan report was published in June 1961, in which flood control was described as a major project purpose. Irrigation was excluded from the report. However, Public Law 88-442 required that if an irrigation system were to be incorporated into the plan it must be reauthorized, and studies for this purpose were initiated in fiscal year 1968. The preparation of a feasibility report began but was suspended in fiscal year 1972 in anticipation of the need to complete the study under new criteria promulgated by the Water Resources Council. Studies under these new procedures have not been authorized to date.

Glen Elder Irrigation District-No. 8 was approved by the Chief Engineer, Division of Water Resources, Kansas State Board of Agriculture, on November 16, 1976. The first board of directors was elected in February 1977. As a result of significant changes in the available water supply for the Kirwin and Webster Units, the Bureau of Reclamation initiated a water management study of the Solomon River in October 1976 to examine the factors affecting surface water supplies of the basin and help verify the potential water supply available for the irrigation phase of the Glen Elder Unit.


The overall development plan, as revised and coordinated with the Corps of Engineers plan by Senate Document 247, was approved by the Flood Control Act of 1944 (Public Law 534, 78th Congress, 2d session). The Glen Elder Unit was authorized for construction by the Flood Control Act of 1946 (Public Law 526, 79th Congress, 2d session).


Purchases of rights-of-way commenced in June 1963. Work on the dam and reservoir and appurtenant structures began in November 1964, and was completed in January 1969.

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Glen Elder Dam and Waconda Lake provide flood protection to the lower Solomon River Valley and to the lower Smoky Hill and Kansas Rivers when operated in conjunction with other basin reservoirs. The unit provides a dependable water supply to Beloit, as well as to three rural water districts. Minimum downstream flows are maintained to provide good water quality. There is enough storage in the reservoir to irrigate a project of about 30,000 acres after satisfying the requirements for the present project purposes.

Recreation, Fish & Wildlife

Glen Elder Dam and Waconda Lake, features of the Glen Elder Unit, PickSloan Missouri Basin Program, are on the Solomon River directly upstream from Glen Elder, Kansas. Reservoir open 24 hours. Good access roads. Available species include walleye, crappie, white bass, striped bass, and channel and flathead catfish. Irrigation supply reservoir experiencing minor fluctuations. Reservoir peaks at 12,600 surface acres. Fishing season is yearround.

Nestled next to one of the largest and best fishing lakes in the state, Glen Elder State Park not only offers outstanding outdoor recreational opportunities for anglers, but swimming, bicycling, horseshoes, volleyball, softball, boating, and water skiing are also favorite activities. A marina makes outings on the lake a simple matter. Equipment for volleyball and horseshoes is available at the park office. For the lucky angler, a fish cleaning station is also provided.

One of the newest features of the park is the Waconda Heritage Village, featuring the historic Hopewell Church, which was moved to the park in late 1994 and eventually will house restrooms, a storm shelter for campers, space for an ecological exhibit, and a quaint setting for weddings, reunions, and other activities. Future proposals for the area include a fullscale replica of a sacred Indian meeting place called Waconda Springs.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks administers 23,901 acres for fish and wildlife. Hunting for quail, pheasant, waterfowl, and small and big game is available. The reservoir also provides excellent fishing for a variety of species. Over 12,000 acres are open to public hunting for deer, waterfowl, and upland game. Special hunts are available by application for youth, disabled, or family groups

For specific information about recreational opportunities at Waconda Lake click on the name below.

Waconda Lake
Flood Control

Glen Elder Dam has an exclusive flood control storage capacity of 722,315 acre-feet and an additional surcharge capacity of 164,966 acre-feet for a total flood control capacity of 887,281 acre-feet. As of 1998, Glen Elder Dam has prevented $1,160.6 million dollars in flood damages.

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Last updated: Apr 04, 2013