Chief Joseph Dam and Rufus Woods Lake

Chief Joseph Dam was originally authorized as Foster Creek Dam in the River and Harbor Act of 1946 for power and irrigation. The project was renamed Chief Joseph Dam in the River and Harbor Act of 1948. Construction began in 1949, and the first eight generating units were brought online in 1955. Eight more units were completed in 1958, then eleven more in 1979, to total 27 units.
The construction of Chief Joseph Dam on the Columbia River created Rufus Woods Lake, which extends upstream for a distance of 51 miles.

Chief Joseph Dam, Rufus Woods Lake, and associated facilities are operated for Hydropower, Irrigation, Recreation, and Water Quality.

Quick Facts

  • Stream: Columbia River (RM 545)
  • Location: Bridgeport, Washington
  • Owner: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District
  • Authorized Purposes: Hydropower, Irrigation (1945 Rivers and Harbors Act)
  • Other Purposes: Recreation, Water Quality
  • Type of Project: Run-of-river
  • Chief Joseph
  • Completed: 1955 (Units 1-8); 1958 (Units 9-16); 1979 (Units 17-27)
  • Height: 236 feet
  • Length: 5,962 feet
  • Features: powerhouse, spillway
  • Forebay Elevation Normal Operating Range: 950-956 feet msl
  • Spillway Capacity (max): 1,200,000 cfs
  • Generation Capacity: 2,069 MW, 27 Units
  • Hydraulic Capacity: 219,000 cfs

Authorized Purposes

Chief Joseph Dam is the 2nd largest hydropower-producing dam in the U.S. and is the largest USACE-operated hydropower dam. The powerhouse is over a third of a mile long and holds 27 house-sized turbines with a total generating capacity of over 2,000 megawatts, enough to power the entire Seattle metropolitan area. Chief Joseph Dam produces approximately $450 million worth of electricity every year.
Water Quality
Water quality is monitored and managed consistent with Clean Water Act and state standards for the health of aquatic species. The Chief Joseph Dam spillway was fitted with flow deflectors in 2008 that act to reduce total dissolved gas levels downstream of the project when water is passed over the spillway.
Recreational opportunities in and around Rufus Woods Lake include boating, swimming, hunting, fishing, hiking, picnicking, and camping. There are two campgrounds near Chief Joseph Dam–Marina Park in Bridgeport and Bridgeport State Park on the north shore of the lake.
Rufus Woods Lake is a favorite spot for anglers from all over the region. Walleye, rainbow trout, and triploid trout are the major game fish caught in the lake.