Dams are structures built across a river, stream, or estuary that stops or restricts the flow of water. Dams so constructed create a water reservoir that suppresses flooding down the stream by controlling the flow of water. It provides water bodies for various activities such as irrigation in farming, industrial uses such as the generation of hydroelectricity, water sports activities, and even for human consumption during the dry season. Dams have been built from very ancient civilization all over the world and it will be a fascinating experience to visit some of these large dams situated across the globe. Here is a list of some of the large dams that you must visit once in a lifetime.

Hirakud Dam: India

Hirakud is the longest dam in the world, with a length of 27 km, built in 1957 across the Mahanadi River, and is a major tourist destination in the state of Odisha. The Dam has two Minars namely Gandhi Minar and the Nehru Minar. The Gandhi Minar rotates providing amazing views of the dam and its surroundings to the visitors. Hirakud Dam is an all-season destination for you. In the Monsoon, you are assured of a picturesque view of the Mahanadi River flowing to glory in full spate and if you happen to visit in winter the migratory birds coming to the reservoir will charm you.

It is said more than 200 temples were submerged due to the construction of the dam and if you visit in summer, you will be able to spot the remains of many of these ancient temples that get submerged during rains. Hirakud Dam is the oldest post-independence Indian Dam and your visit to this historical and engineering marvel of India will give you an experience of a lifetime.

Hirakud Dam in India
Image Source: indiawaterportal.ord

Tarbela Dam: Pakistan

Located about 473 km from Lahore in Pakistan, the Tarbela Dam is the world’s largest earth-and rock-filled structure with a whopping surface area of 250 square Kilometers. This large dam was built to store and regulate water from the Indus River for irrigation use. In addition, it was for the generation of cheap Hydel energy. Its existing hydropower facilities supply about 16% of the electricity generated in Pakistan. The Dam plays an important role in the economy and life of the people of the country which you will certainly confirm after you visit the place.

Tarbela Dam in Pakistan
Image Source: PC Sohail Ahmed (

Ataturk Dam: Turkey

Ataturk Dam built along the Euphrates River in Turkey is one of the tallest dams in the world with a height of 166 meters. It also ranks among the largest and longest dams in the world. It has a very large reservoir which is a major attraction for tourists who make a beeline to the place for water sports. You should visit the Dam during the months of September to October to enjoy the famous Sports Festival and also the International Ataturk dam sailing competition held during this period and you are sure to have a lifetime experience.

Ataturk Dam in Turkey
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Oahe Dam: USA

Oahe is the second largest dam along the River Missouri and is also one of the largest dams in the world. The dam was built in 1968 and it has created the fourth largest artificial reservoir in the USA popularly called the Lake Oahe which stretches 231 miles from the Dam. Due to its richness in biodiversity, the lake is a major tourist destination offering the bird watchers their field day for enjoyment and experience. The large water body of the dam is also home to the rare pallid sturgeon and various species of fish that would make your visit memorable.

Oahe Dam in USA

Jinping-I Dam: China

After the Rogun dam in Tajikistan was destroyed by flood, Jinping –I Dam in the Sichuan Province of China is ranked as the highest dam in the world with a tall arch of 305 meters. The dam has been built on the Jinping bend of the Yalong River for the production of hydroelectricity. The 305 meters tall and 568 meters long arch dam supplies the hydropower station with water required for the generation of electricity. Being the highest dam in the world it is an amazing structure of modern times to experience.

Jinping –I Dam in Sichuan Province of China
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The Three Gorges Dam: China

The Three Gorges Dam in the Hubei Province of China is the largest hydroelectric dam in the world measuring a width of 2.3 kilometres and a height of 192 meters. The dam is named from its location near the three gorges on the Yangtze River at the foot of the western Wu Shan Mountains. It is one of the world’s largest feats of modern engineering and is a boon for the growing energy demands in China. It has also helped to control the notorious flooding of the Yangtze River. Make it a point to visit this largest dam in the world for a lifetime experience.

Three Gorges Dam in the Hubei Province of China

Gardiner Dam: Canada

Gardiner Dam constructed to create the Lake Diefenbaker in Canada is one of the largest dams in the world in terms of embankment. It is also one of the oldest and biggest dams in the world. The Gardiner Dam named after the longtime Canadian federal cabinet minister, James G. Gardiner, is a famous tourist destination in Canada. The place opens daily from 9 AM to 5 PM and there is a lavish Visitor Reception Centre to welcome you.

On your drive across the dam, you get a choice of a variety of food that is offered to satisfy your taste buds. You can enjoy the informative movie that is screened in the place showcasing the history of the dam and how it was built. Remember to collect souvenirs for keeps from various shops around the Dam. The Parks near the Dam also offer camping, hiking, and picnic facilities to make the visit to one of the largest dams, very enjoyable and memorable.

Gardiner Dam in Canada
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Oroville Dam: California USA

Oroville Dam built across the Feather River in California is the tallest dam in the USA and ranks among the largest dams in the world. It forms as an impoundment the Lake Oroville which is a popular tourist destination. The dam is open to visitors on all days and has a lot to offer with respect to scenic beauty and recreational activities. Lake Oroville itself is an ideal place for a day picnic, where you can enjoy a wide range of biking, and camping and also avail of the fishing facilities offered. 

Oroville Dam in California
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Kallanai Dam: India

Kallanai is one of the oldest irrigation dams in the world built around 2000 years ago across the Kaveri River in Trichy District in the state of Tamil Nadu in South India. It was originally constructed by the ‘Chola king Karikalan’ around the 2nd century AD and is considered to be the oldest dam for regulating water for irrigation in the world which is still in use. The dam was further remodelled by the British during the 19th century. The dam is about 1079 feet long, 66 feet wide, and 18 feet in height.

The main purpose of the Kallanai dam was to divert the waters of the Kaveri across the fertile delta region for irrigation via canals. The Dam splits the Kaveri River into 4 streams known as Kollidam Aru, Kaveri, Vennaru, and Puthu Aru which have become the lifeline of farmers down the streams through the ages. A visit to this ancient dam also known as ‘Grand Anicut’ will give you a glimpse of the rich heritage of India

Also read: Sir M Visvesvaraya’s KRS Dam: A Guide To Krishna Raja Sagar Dam’s Legacy

Every Dam constructed over time has a story to tell on how mankind through the ages successfully manipulated nature to their advantage for enriching their lives. Not only are these an engineering marvel but are also a very integral part of cities.  


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