ROOSEVELT DAM AGATE: A Gem Loaded with History
Rock&Gem Magazine|February 2021
The Roosevelt Dam agate is a very limited-occurrence lapidary material, uncovered during the excavation of the Theodore Roosevelt Dam in Arizona, hence the obvious name of Roosevelt Dam agate.
HELEN SERRAS-HERMAN

The Theodore Roosevelt Dam is located on the Salt River, northeast of Phoenix. The masonry dam was built between 1905 and 1911 and was renovated and expanded between 1989 and 1996. The dam is 357 feet high, with a hydroelectric generating capacity of 36,000kW. It was the first major project under the new federal law of 1902 - the Reclamation Act - which paved the way for irrigation projects to aid the arid western states’ settlement.

The dam sits at the confluence of Tonto Creek and the Salt River. The location of this narrow gorge was initially called “The Crossing” by early Arizona pioneers. It was the place on the Salt River where Native Americans, farmers, and ranchers would ford the river. The dam forms the artificial 21,500-acre Theodore Roosevelt Lake. The project’s primary purpose was to provide water storage and flood control through the Salt River Valley.

The dam is named after US President Theodore Roosevelt, who dedicated the dam on March 18, 1911. During the dedication speech, Roosevelt said that his administration’s two proudest achievements were the Reclamation Act and the Panama Canal.

In 1963, the Roosevelt Dam became a National Historic Landmark but withdrawn in 1999, the reason being the 1989 modifications had altered the original design’s integrity.

When my husband and I visited the area, we made a stop at the Roosevelt Dam and took in the imposing view. From the overlook, you can enjoy a closer view of the engineering wonder. Interpretive signs share history with visitors. There is a historic red sandstone building on site, once the home of the Bureau of Reclamation. Also visible is the two-mile-long Roosevelt Lake Bridge. To relocate traffic from traveling atop the Roosevelt dam, a steel arch bridge, Roosevelt Lake Bridge, opened in 1992. The bridge was painted blue to blend with the lake and sky.

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