The Bureau of Reclamation built the dam between 1934 and 1938. What you see is not what you get at Parker Dam, known as “the deepest dam in the world.” Engineers, digging for bedrock on which to build, had to excavate so far beneath the bed of the Colorado River that 73 percent of Parker Dam’s 320-foot structural height is not visible. Parker Dam has a volume of 380,000 cubic yards of concrete. At its crest, the dam is 856 feet long. Water control is provided by five 50-ft-square gates.
Its reservoir, Lake Havasu, is a different matter. Its deep blue water stretches for 45 miles behind the dam, creating an oasis in the Arizona desert. Gracing the shore at Lake Havasu City is the historic London Bridge, reconstructed brick by brick in 1971 and adding to the city’s claim as “Arizona’s playground.”
Lake Havasu backs up behind the dam for 45 miles and covers more than 20,400 acres (32 square miles). The reservoir's total capacity is 646,200 acre-feet. The Metropolitan Water District`s W. P. Whitsett Intake Pumping Plant for the Colorado River Aqueduct is located on the shore of Lake Havasu about two miles upstream from the dam. The aqueduct begins at the intake pumping plant and extends 242 miles to its terminus at Lake Mathews near Riverside, California.
About half of the power generated at Parker Dam is reserved by MWD to pump Colorado River water along the Colorado River Aqueduct. The remaining power is marketed to users in California, Nevada and Arizona by the Western Area Power Administration. By contract, the use of active storage in Lake Havasu to generate power is limited to the elevation between 440 to 450 feet.
The power plant is operated and managed by Reclamation and includes a penstock gate structure, four penstock tunnels, and a powerplant building housing four hydroelectric generating units. Each of the four tunnels and penstocks conveying river water from the forebay at the left end of the dam to the turbines is 22 feet in diameter and has a water capacity of 5,575 cubic feet per second.
Parker Dam is operated with Hoover and Davis Dams to bring water and power benefits to residents of the Lower Colorado River Basin. The Department of Energy, through the Western Area Power Administration, markets the hydropower produced at the power plant to cities, agricultural users and Native American communities throughout the Southwest. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California reserves about 50% of the plant’s power output for pumping water to the Pacific Coast.
Plan your Visit
- You can park at both ends of the dam. Scenic view pullouts are open to the public on both the Arizona and California sides of the dam.
- Currently the dam is open to passenger vehicles only, between the hours of 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Security restrictions may close the dam to RVs and trucks, and to all traffic at night.
- Security concerns after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have forced the closure of the power plant’s self-guided tour.