Davis Dam turns 65: Turbines turned on for the first time in January 1951

Davis Dam construction in 1942.

Courtesy<BR> Davis Dam construction in 1942.

Mohave County prior to the early 1900s was quite inhospitable to most settlers, due in part to the arid Mojave Desert. The Colorado River did provide relief, but was left wild for many years and was subject to massive flooding, preventing any meaningful agriculture or settling from occurring.

A series of acts, most notable being the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902 and the Reclamation Project Act of 1939, would aim to change that. Taming rivers of the West was critical in providing irrigation for residents here, but almost equally as critical was the power those dam projects would provide.

The Hoover Dam, then known as the Boulder Dam, continues to provide over 2,000 megawatts of power to Arizona, Nevada and California.

As the New Year rolled around in 1951, Davis Dam was set to turn on its turbines for the first time. While the power that Davis Dam provides today is just over 250 megawatts, at the time it was one of the largest projects in the country and provided substantial power to the region.

January 4, 1951 - Mohave County Miner

First Generator At Davis Dam Will be Started by the Secy. of Interior Tomorrow

Secretary of the Interior Oscar L. Chapman will officially start by remote control from Washington, D. C., tomorrow the first generator in the new Davis Dam power plant on the Colorado river between Nevada and Arizona, it was announced here today by E. A. Moritz, director of the Bureau of Reclamation's Region 3.

Mr. Moritz said the Secretary will press a telegraph key at 3 p.m. EST (1 p.m. MST) to set in motion the big hydroelectric generating unit. Members of the congressional delegations from three states which will utilize Davis Dam power - Arizona, Nevada and California - have been invited to the Secretary's office for the ceremony.

The inauguration of power production at this newest of the Reclamation dams in the West is more than three months ahead of schedule as the result of a speed-up in the construction program. Weeks were shaved from the schedule of the Davis power installations thru an agreement between the Bureau of Reclamation and the contractor, Donovan-James-Wismer & Becker, of St. Paul, Minn.

The generator is the first of five, each having a capacity of 45,000 kilowatts, which are now being installed. The other units will go into production at the rate of about one each month. All five are expected to be in operation by next July on an integrated transmission system with generators at Hoover and Parker dams to furnish additional Colorado River power to the Southwest.

"The Davis Dam power plant will be in production in time to be of material benefit during the approaching spring season to irrigation farmers in the Salt and Gila river valleys of Arizona who depend on electricity for pumping," Mr. Moritz said. In past years there have been critical shortages of power on farms in this area.

The Davis power plant will add nearly a billion kilowatt hours of energy to the present annual output of Colorado river dams which, more than a year ago, amounted to about 42 percent of the power requirements of the Pacific southwest and a third of the total energy generated on all Reclamation projects.

Work on the dam started in March 1946. The Davis Dam Project, comprising the earth - and rock-fill embankment rising 138 feet above the river bed, the power plant, intake, and spillway structures, and over 1,000 miles of transmission lines, is substantially completed and will have received the finishing touches by the end of fiscal year 1952. Besides the power plant installations, the main items to be completed include certain transmission line features and the stilling basin just below the spillway. The project is being built at an estimated cost of $114 million.

The Davis power plant will be the Bureau of Reclamation's fourth largest hydroelectric installation. Grand Coulee Dam power plant on the Columbia river in Washington is the first, Hoover Dam power plant on the Colorado river between Nevada and Arizona is second, and Shasta Dam power plant on the Sacramento river in California is the third.

"In peace or in war the Davis dam project will be a major asset to our nation from which we can expect to reap benefits for many years to come," Mr. Moritz declared. "This development is an example of man's ingenuity in working hand in hand with nature to realize the multiple benefits from the Colorado River."

Mr. Moritz heralded the inauguration of power production at Davis dam as a major milestone in the industrial development of the Southwest.


As Davis Dam was set to start generating power here in the desert, across the Pacific Ocean the United States and the United Nations were entrenched in a war with North Korea, Communist China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Editorials written at that time stated that "our faith has not been well founded" as far as the United Nations was concerned, and that "through the effective use of the United Nations as a sounding board the enemy has throttled us as effectively as if he had removed the engines from each of our long range bombers."

While exceptionally critical of our role in Korea, the Mohave County Miner printed a letter to the editor on the front page from Sgt. William T. Mascoffian, who was looking for some moral support from the community of Kingman.

Letter to the Editor - Somewhere in Korea

Dear Sir:

It may seem strange for a paper to receive a letter of this type from a person that has never been in your friendly town.

I once knew a GI that served at the Army Air Base there and he told me about the friendly people of Kingman.

Having no family or friends to write or receive mail from makes my morale very low, especially at mail call. I would appreciate your help very much in getting me some pen pals. I will do my best to answer any letters that I receive.

I am looking forward to a visit to your city.


Sgt. William T. Mascoffian - RA 13307309

Co. B, 76th Engr. Const Bn

APO 59, c/o Postmaster

San Francisco, Calif.