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Jamestown Dam and Reservoir
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Pick Sloan Missouri Basin Program
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Jamestown Project History (39 KB) (pdf)
General Description| Plan| Development| Benefits
General Description

Jamestown Dam and Reservoir in central North Dakota provides flood protection and has a potential municipal water supply for the city of Jamestown, North Dakota. When the Garrison Diversion Unit is constructed, Jamestown Reservoir will control and reregulate water required for irrigation of lands downstream along the James River to near the South Dakota border. The reservoir also provides recreation opportunities and fish and wildlife conservation.

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The flood control feature of Jamestown Dam is effective in reducing flood dangers in Jamestown, North Dakota, and areas downstream along the James River. There is no power installation at the dam. Pipes and valves have been installed in the gate chamber, from which a pipe can be extended 6,100 feet to the existing municipal water treatment plant in Jamestown to assure an adequate surface water supply.

Facility Descriptions
Jamestown Dam

Jamestown Dam is a zoned, rolled earthfill structure with a structural height of 110 feet. The spillway is a morning-glory inlet leading to a 9.5-foot-diameter concrete conduit near the right abutment of the dam with a capacity of 2,930 cubic feet per second. The outlet works, near the left abutment of the dam, are controlled by two 5- by 6-foot high-pressure slide gates with a capacity of 2,990 cubic feet per second, and discharge into a 13.5-foot high, horseshoe-shaped concrete tunnel. The reservoir has a total storage capacity of 220,978 acre-feet from streambed to elevation 1454.0, the top of exclusive flood control, of which 185,435 acre-feet are for flood control.

Operating Agencies

Operation and maintenance are the responsibility of the Bureau of Reclamation.

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Settlement in the James River Valley near Jamestown began with construction of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1871 when railroad workers and their military guards established a camp on the bank of the river. This camp later became Jamestown. The most rapid settlement of the valley was from 1890 to 1910. During the war years, 1914-1920, a strong demand for wheat was a factor in making it the most important cash crop. During the drought period in the 1930`s, with almost complete crop failure for several years, many farmers were forced to abandon their holdings and leave the area; livestock numbers were also drastically reduced because of feed shortages.


Early preliminary reports for the development of the James River Basin in North Dakota were made in 1926. The Corps of Engineers reported on the project in 1933, and the Bureau of Reclamation made its first studies of the Jamestown Unit in 1940. In 1947, the Corps of Engineers completed an additional study on flood control for the James River and its tributaries. The Bureau of Reclamation continued its investigations on Jamestown Dam and Reservoir as a multipurpose structure in the authorized plan for the development of the Missouri River Basin and prepared a definite plan report on Jamestown Dam and Reservoir, dated December 1951.


Authorized as a part of the Missouri-Souris development by the Flood Control Act of December 22, 1944, Public Law 534, which approved the general comprehensive plan set forth in Senate Document 191 and House Document 475, as revised and coordinated by Senate Document 247, 78th Congress, 2d session.


Construction work on Jamestown Dam began April 18, 1952, and was completed in February 1954.

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Irrigation and Municipal Water

When the Garrison Diversion Unit is completed, the Jamestown Reservoir will provide control and reregulation of water required for irrigation of lands downstream along the James River to near the South Dakota border. Jamestown is assured an adequate municipal water supply.


Recreational use and agricultural leasing at Jamestown Reservoir are administered by the Stutsman County Board of Park Commissioners under an agreement with the Bureau of Reclamation dated August 6, 1954. Initial development of a recreation park, including access roads, water wells, trees, a swimming beach, and picnicking facilities was accomplished using Federal money specifically appropriated for the purpose. Campgrounds and trailer facilities have been constructed by cooperative efforts. The reservoir is stocked with fish by the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, and is on one of the greatest migratory waterfowl flyways in North Dakota.

Jamestown Reservoir

Flood Control

Construction of Jamestown Dam and Reservoir as an advance facility of the Garrison Diversion Unit wad made under a special appropriation by Congress to provide urgently needed flood protection to the city of Jamestown, North Dakota. Jamestown Reservoir has a joint use capacity of 6,633 acre-feet, an exclusive flood control capacity of 185,435 acre-feet, and a surcharge capacity of 158,860 acre-feet for a total capacity available for flood protection of 350,928 acre-feet. As of 1998, Jamestown Reservoir had prevented $75.1 million in flood damages.

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Last updated: Apr 05, 2013