If you’re into big dams, then look no farther. Here, we’ll take a look at the ten tallest dams on Earth—number one might surprise you. Our list includes some of the oldest and tallest dams on Earth, as well as some of the newest. We’ve even included one dam that’s still under construction. At the top of our list is a dam so incredible that nearly doubles the height of the second tallest dam on Earth.
Read on to learn about the top ten tallest dams in the world!
10. Vajont Dam
The tenth tallest dam on Earth is the Vajont Dam. Located in northern Italy, this dam became operational in 1959. The Vajont Dam is 858 feet tall (261.5 meters) and 89 feet wide at the base. Like most large dams, the Vajont dam narrows towards the top; it’s only 11 feet wide at its maximum height.
9. Yusufeli Dam
The ninth tallest dam on Earth is the Yusufeli Dam in northeastern Turkey. Construction on this dam began in 2013; today, the structure is nearly complete. The Yusufeli Dam is 886 feet (270 meters) tall and dams the Coruh River.
8. Enguri Dam
One of the oldest dams on our list, the Enguri dam, is the eighth tallest dam in the world. Construction began in 1961, and this concrete arch dam was completed in 1987. The Enguri Dam is a whopping 891 feet (271.5) meters tall. It dams the Enguri River and provides hydroelectric power to the country of Georgia. It is located in far western Georgia, near the town of Jvari.
7. Grande Dixence Dam
Seventh on our list of tallest dams on Earth is the Grande Dixence Dam. The Grande Dixence Dam is located in Switzerland; it’s the tallest gravity dam in existence. At 935 feet (285 meters) tall, it’s also the tallest dam in Europe. Like the Enguri Dam, the Grande Dixence Dam is one of the older dams on our list. It was completed in 1961 and has been in use ever since.
6. Xiluodu Dam
The Xiluodu Dam is the sixth-largest dam in the world. Construction finished in 2013 at a cost of over six billion dollars. Today, it stands 937 feet (285.5 meters) tall. The Xiluodu Dam is located in south-central China, on the Upper Yangtze River, also known as the Jinsha River. It’s the third tallest double-curved arch dam in the world.
5. Baihetan Dam
The fifth tallest dam on Earth is also located on the Upper Yangtze River in south-central China. This is the Baihetan Dam at 948 feet (289 meters) tall. The Baihetan Dam is an arch dam completed in 2021, though it is not scheduled to begin operating until 2022. Once operational, this dam will provide a huge amount of hydroelectric power for China.
4. Xiaowan Dam
The fourth tallest dam on Earth is also located in south-central China. However, the Xiaowan Dam is on the Mekong River, not the Yangtze River. Like China’s other large dams, this dam provides hydroelectric power. The Xiaowan Dam is 958 feet (292) meters tall and was completed in 2010. Like the Xiluodu Dam, the Xiaowan Dam is a double-curved concrete arch dam.
3. Nurek Dam
Nurek Dam, also known as the Nurek Hydroelectric Station, is the third tallest dam on Earth, and the second-largest manmade dam in the world. This dam is located in Tajikistan, on the Vakhsh River. It’s an embankment dam, which means it uses earth fill as part of its structure. The Nurek Dam is 984 feet (300 meters) tall and 2,300 feet (700 meters) long. This dam was completed in 1972, and it’s still one of the largest dams in the world.
2. Jinping-I Dam
As of 2022, the Jinping-I Dam in China is the tallest manmade dam on Earth. This dam is an astounding 1,001 feet (305 meters) tall. It was completed in 2013 in Sichuan, China. Like several of the dams on our list, the Jinping-I Dam is a double-curved, concrete arch dam. It is 1,865 feet (569 meters) long and produces a huge amount of electricity.
1. Usoi Dam
The first nine dams on our list of the tallest dams on Earth may have been impressive, but they’re nothing compared to number one on our list. The tallest dam on Earth is an incredible 1,860 feet (567 meters) tall, and—it’s all natural.
The Usoi Dam in Tajikistan is by far the tallest dam on Earth, and there’s nothing manmade about it. The dam lies along the Murghab River. On one side is Sarez Lake, and on the other, Shadau Lake. But, these lakes didn’t always exist. Back in 1911, a 7.4 magnitude earthquake in the region triggered a monumental landslide, one big enough to change the face of the Murghab River forever.
The landslide created a wall of solid earth and rock, the Usoi Dam. Today, no other dam, manmade or natural, even comes close to the size of the tallest dam on Earth.
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