A History of the Bighorn's Yellowtail Dam

February 17, 2008 By: Marshall Cutchin

The debate over how to manage rivers that cross state lines and international borders is likely only to intensify. Higher demand and rising earth temperatures mean that in many cases, no one is going to be happy with the compromises either. The Yellowtail Dam on Montana’s Bighorn — a river which was once a muddy desert stream that flooded regularly, but is now a trout angler’s oasis — is at the center of a typical controversy. Mike Stark writes on the history of the dam in the Billings Gazette. “The last bucket of concrete was poured in October 1965. The afterbay dam two miles downstream, which evens the highs and lows in releases from Yellowtail Dam, was finished the following year, and the power plant was completed in 1967.”