Construction on Crystal Dam began in mid-1973 and continued through August 1976 when the dam was topped out. Like Morrow Point Dam, Crystal Dam is a double-curvature, thin-arch concrete structure. Crystal Dam is located six miles downstream of Morrow Point Dam, and approximately two miles above the eastern boundary of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
Crystal Dam serves an important function in stabilizing the flows of the Gunnison River to benefit the downstream environment, particularly the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, as well as the production of hydroelectric power. Crystal Dam can be seen from the end of the East Portal road which begins just past the south rim entrance station at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
Crystal Dam stands 323 feet (98 meters) above the streambed, with a crest length of 635 feet (194 meters) and contains 154,400 cubic yards (118,047 cubic meters) of concrete. Water from the reservoir is released through the turbines of the powerplant, but during flood periods when the reservoir level exceeds full pool at elevation 6,755, water can pass over the ungated spillway. Crystal Powerplant contains one generating unit with a total capacity of 32 megawatts.
Crystal Reservoir extends six miles (10 kilometers) to Morrow Point Dam, and covers an area of about 340 acres (138 hectares). When Crystal Reservoir is full, it has a capacity of about 26,000 acre-feet (32 million cubic meters). Just downstream from Crystal Dam is the Gunnison Tunnel, the historic diversion for the Uncompahgre Project. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is located immediately downstream from the tunnel, and stretches 14 miles (23 kilometers) along the Gunnison River.