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Lower Yellowstone Project
Lower Yellowstone Diversion Dam, Mont.
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Lower Yellowstone Project History (46 KB) (pdf)
General Description| Plan| Development| Benefits

General Description

The Lower Yellowstone Project in east-central Montana and western North Dakota includes the Lower Yellowstone Diversion Dam, Thomas Point Pumping Plant, the Main Canal, 225 miles of laterals, and 118 miles of drains. The purpose of the project is to furnish a dependable supply of irrigation water for approximately 54,000 acres of fertile land along the west bank of the Yellowstone River. About one-third of the project lands are in North Dakota and two-thirds in Montana.

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Water is diverted from the Yellowstone River into the Main Canal by the Lower Yellowstone Diversion Dam near Intake, Mont. It is carried by gravity to the greater portion of the project lands. About 2,300 acres of bench-land are irrigated by water pumped from the canal by the Thomas Point Pumping Plant.

Facility Descriptions
Lower Yellowstone Diversion Dam

The Lower Yellowstone Diversion Dam, on the Yellowstone River about 18 miles below Glendive, Montana, is a rockfilled timber crib weir about 12 feet high. The dam contains 23,000 cubic yards of material.

Pumping Plant

There are three pumping plants on the project; one at Thomas Point on the Main Canal, one at Crane on the Main Canal, and one on Drain 27. The Thomas Point Pumping Plant is on the Main Canal about 19 miles below the headworks. The plant has two units directly connected to hydraulic turbines and one motor-driven unit. The energy derived from 80 cubic feet per second of water falling 28 feet from the Main Canal to Lateral KK is utilized by the two hydraulic turbine driven centrifugal pumps to lift 45 cubic feet per second of water 31 feet to Lateral LL for irrigation of 2,300 acres of benchland north of Savage, Mont. The motor driven unit pumps 20 cubic feet per second of water from the Main Canal into Lateral LL. The Crane Pumping Plant has two motor-driven units, each of which pumps 5 cubic feet per second of water from the Main Canal into Lateral BP-1. The pumping plant at Drain 27 has one motor-driven unit which pumps 15 cubic feet per second of water from the drain into Lateral N.

Main Canal and Distribution System

The Main Canal diverts to the west side of the Yellowstone River at Intake and extends down the valley to the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers. The canal is 71.6 miles long and has an initial capacity of 1,200 cubic feet per second. A lateral system of 225 miles serves the project lands. A total of 118 miles of drains have been constructed.

Operating Agencies

The project is operated by the Board of Control of the Lower Yellowstone Project.

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About 1883, following the completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad, cattlemen settled in the project area. Limited irrigation of meadowland was accomplished by a few of the settlers prior to the construction of the irrigation project.


The Reclamation Service began investigating the project in 1903. A report by a board of consulting engineers, dated April 23, 1904, served as a basis for authorization of the project.


The project was authorized by the Secretary of the Interior on May 10, 1904, under the Reclamation Act of June 17, 1902.


Construction began on July 22, 1905. Water was available for irrigation during the season of 1909.

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The principal crops grown include small grains, alfalfa and other hay crops, pasture, silage, beans, and sugar beets.

Municipal Water

The town of Savage is supplied with Lower Yellowstone Project water.

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Last updated: Feb 01, 2012