Lake Overholser Dam - Oklahoma City, OK
Posted by: hamquilter
N 35° 29.150 W 097° 40.075
14S E 620835 N 3927737
Quick Description: Lake Overholser, a 700 acre lake, open to the public for fishing, boating and swimming, is created by the Overholser Dam on the North Canadian River.
Location: Oklahoma, United States
Date Posted: 7/30/2011 8:09:37 PM
Waymark Code: WMC66T
In the early years of Oklahoma City, the water source was the N. Canadian River, which was unreliable due to drought and flooding, and the future growth of the City was impaired by insufficient water supply. After years of discussions and disagreements about the need for a dam, the community realized that to grow, build they must. Finally in 1916, a $1.5 million bond issue was approved and construction began on the dam. Completed in 1918, Lake Overholser Dam created a 700 acre lake, which aided in flood control and provided Oklahoma City with its primary source of water, enabling her to grow substantially in the years following its completion.
Lake Overholser Dam is a reinforced concrete buttress type dam 1650 feet long and 68 feet high. It dams the North Canadian River which flows from Canton Reservoir in Blaine County, to form Lake Overholser. The dam was named for Edward Overholser, mayor of Oklahoma City at the time. It wasn’t until May of 1930 that the City finally allowed use of the lake for fishing, boating and swimming. The dam runs east/west and straddles the border of Oklahoma and Canadian Counties, at the southeast corner of the Lake. In 1924, the west end of the dam was extended, adding eight more gated spillways.
In 1947, with the formation of Lake Hefner, a 2580-acre impoundment nearby, and Oklahoma City’s use of other water sources such as Lake Stanley Draper, Lake Arcadia and Lake Atoka, Lake Overholser began to recede in importance. It still remains the largest, oldest and most intact buttress type dam in Oklahoma.
The dam is really two dams, one which impounds the reservoir, and a second which regulates the flow of the bypass spillway. In 1922 and again in 1934, the dam was raised and re-configured due to flooding.
At the east end of the dam is a brick and tile pump house which sits above the spillway over the bypass channel. Ambursen Construction Company erected the dam. A cornerstone on the east wall of the pump house shows the Day of Dedication as April 22, 1918. Two sets of stairs lead to an upper and lower walkway. A Pratt truss bridge spans the spillway and carries the upper walkway. The original gate lifting machinery is exposed along the walkway. Geared iron wheels connected by long axles are located over each flood gate.
In the late 1990s, the walkway was “upgraded” in an attempt to return the dam back to its earliest design. A tubular steel balustrade was added along the walkway for safety. “Period” street lights were added along the North edge. The dam looks today as it did in the late 1940s.
Placed on the National Register in 2007, the link to the nomination application below gives a detailed description of the dam and its construction, for those who would like a more technical, engineering description.
At the time of posting, Oklahoma City is experiencing a severe drought with temperatures over 100, week after week. As the photos will show, very little water lies ahead of the dam, and the lake level itself is low. In the gallery of photos, we have also shown a photo which was taken a little over a year before, after severe storms and flooding, and the situation was quite different. There were literally whitecaps on the water rushing down the bypass channel, and the spillway was open to relieve flooding to the north. The rushing water was really something to see. Hundreds of local citizens would come to the dam and watch in amazement. The sound was so loud you had to shout to be heard. (visit link
The walkway across the dam is open to the public and walking across is quite an experience.
National Register application for detailed construction description (visit link