Discover the Largest Dam in Indiana (And What Lives in the Waters Behind It)

Written by Crystal
Updated: September 9, 2023
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Key Points

  • The largest dam in Indiana is the Brookville Lake Dam, which is 181 feet tall and 2,800 feet across.
  • In 1965, the United States Army Corps of Engineers began the Brookville Reservoir construction and the reservoir was officially up and running by 1974.
  • Brookville Lake is a riverine reservoir birthed by the Brookville Lake Dam.

Discover the grandest dam in Indiana, the Brookville Lake Dam!

Brookville Dam stands tall at a remarkable height of 181 feet, making it the largest dam in the state. In this article, we’ll uncover fascinating details of this awe-inspiring structure and what would happen if it were to break. We’ll also explore the area’s rich history and the diverse wildlife around it. Follow along to learn all about the Brookville Lake Dam.

Location of Brookville Lake Dam

Brookville Lake Brookville Indiana

The Brookville Lake Dam is 181 feet tall and 2,800 feet across.

©Gary Wonning/

The largest dam in Indiana is the Brookville Lake Dam, which is 181 feet tall and 2,800 feet across. The dam impounds the waters of the Whitewater River, giving rise to Brookville Lake. The dam sits in Brookville Township, Franklin County, IN, just north of Brookville. It’s surrounded by several bodies of water, such as Butlers Run, the East Fork Whitewater River, and McCartys Run.


The dam has been around for almost half a century. In 1965, the United States Army Corps of Engineers began the Brookville Reservoir construction. The reservoir was officially up and running by 1974. The Brookville Lake Dam has a maximum capacity of 359,600 acre-feet and regular storage of 184,900 acre-feet. It primarily serves as a means for flood control, water supply, and recreation.

The Brookville Dam is responsible for creating a reservoir on the East Fork of the Whitewater River.

Where is Brookville Lake Dam Located on a Map?

Brookville Lake Dam is located on the east fork of the Whitewater River Valley in Brookville Township, which is in Franklin County, Indiana, in the southeastern part of the state. It is about half a mile above the town of Brookville.

Brookville Lake: The Reservoir

The brilliance and beauty of the orange sunset on a hot summer evening at Brookville Lake in Indiana, USA.

Covering 8.2 square miles, Brookville Lake is a popular spot for boating, swimming, and water skiing.

©Anne Kitzman/

Brookville Lake is a riverine reservoir birthed by the Brookville Lake Dam. The stunning reservoir spans a water surface area of 8.2 square miles. Along with serving its primary flood control and stormwater management roles, the reservoir is also a fun place to visit. Whether you’re into boating, hiking, hunting, or fishing, this reservoir has got you covered. There’s also picnicking, swimming, volleyball, and waterskiing. And when it comes to fishing, you’ll find an incredible variety of fish species swimming around. There’s bluegill, striped bass, catfish, walleye, crappie, trout, white bass, and more.

Wildlife in Brookville Lake

American bald eagle with wings spread and perched on branch against background of Alaskan Kenai region shoreline along Cook Inlet

Bald eagles are one of the many birds living around Brookville Lake in Indiana.


Deer, quail, turkey, and all sorts of wildlife live around Brookville Lake. And within the waters, you’ll find largemouth bass, striped bass, catfish, walleye, and the list goes on. Brookville Lake also provides a thriving ecosystem for a variety of bird species year-round. There are bald eagles, osprey, great egrets, mute swans, song sparrow, killdeer, common grackle, wood ducks, and more. The dam area, Bonwell Hill, Scenic Drive, Garr Hill boat ramp, and Mounds Recreation Area are prime bird-watching locations.

Whitewater River

rafting on a mountain river

Whitewater River is popular among rafters and kayakers because of its challenging rapids.

©Aleksandr Lupin/

The Brookville Dam is responsible for creating a reservoir on the East Fork of the Whitewater River. This beautiful river stretches for about 101 miles, flowing southward and formed by merging the West and East Forks. If you’re into kayaking, canoeing, or rafting, get ready for an adrenaline rush! Whitewater River falls about 6 feet per mile. As the river descends, it transforms into turbulent, fast-flowing water, giving rise to exciting rapids.

Brookville Tailwaters

Brookville Tailwaters is home to lake species like walleyes, largemouth bass, perch, crappies, and catfish. However, the main attraction is the trout fishery that stretches approximately 2 miles from the dam to the Whitewater River. This stretch is regularly stocked with rainbow trout in the spring and fall. This unique fishing spot is known for its cool water and controlled release. The hypolimnetic dam releases water from different depths. This ensures proper oxygen levels and temperatures for fish. This dam ensures that the water from the lake never exceeds 71 degrees Fahrenheit, classifying it as a “cool” water fishery.

Brookville Reservoir and Whitewater Memorial State Park

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia)

The Brookville/Whitewater region offers a variety of trees, including the lovely American beech.

©Gerry Bishop/

Whitewater Memorial State Park was established in 1949, paying homage to World War II veterans. And the entire Brookville/Whitewater region is certainly a sight to see. The region proudly displays deep, forested ravines with a rich assortment of trees. There’s American beech, white ash, sugar maple, white oak, and tulip tree. Trees and other fauna do well here thanks to the fertile soils the Wisconsin Glacier generously left behind. The region is also home to the oldest bedrock in Indiana, which is a treasure trove of ancient marine fossils.

Indiana Outdoors TV Show

Whitewater Memorial State Park proudly houses a naturalist cabin. This cabin was the set for “Indiana Outdoors,” an educational TV show. The series was a collaborative effort between Ball State University and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, running from 2001 to 2007. There are still numerous episodes of “Indiana Outdoors” available on YouTube.

Area History

Moundsville, West Virginia, just outside of Wheeling, is home to the Grave Creek Mound.  This historic burial mound was built by the Arena people sometime before Christ.

Adena people built mounds in Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.


Originally the Brookville/Whitewater region was home to Woodland Indians, referenced as the Adena people. These prehistoric Native Americans inhabited parts of present-day Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Their culture, known as the Adena culture, thrived from 1,000 to 200 BC. Despite the absence of written records, archaeologists use the name “Adena” based on artifacts found at a farm in Chillicothe, Ohio.

You can hike the Glidewell Trail to see a prehistoric mound left by the Adena people. Prehistoric mounds found in the area played various roles, including storage, ceremonies, celebrations, and burials. The Glidewell Mound is a professionally excavated and marked Adena mound. The burial site carbon-dates to about 2100 years old. Although the mound has undergone changes over time, it’s still a treasure trove for historians. Past excavations revealed copper bracelets, arrow points, pottery shards, bone needles, and human skeletons.

Following the Treaty of Greenville, European settlers, notably the Hanna family, arrived on the scene. This began a new chapter for the area with their cabin and orchard. The town of Fairfield initially held the county seat status before it was shifted to Brookville. The lifelines of this area were canals and railroads, which wasn’t always a good thing since the region often had to face the wrath of floods.

What Would Happen If the Brookville Lake Dam Ever Broke?

Flood. Rushing water waves. Natural disasters.

If the Brookville Lake Dam broke, mass evacuations and catastrophic consequences would occur.

©Zhukovskaya Olga/

If the Brookville Lake Dam were to break, it would trigger a catastrophic sequence of events. The tranquil Whitewater River would transform into a violent scene of rushing water. The break would cause widespread flooding, severe infrastructure damage, and massive ecological disruption. Mass evacuations would begin immediately.

Thankfully, many safety procedures are in place to prevent a dam break or breach. Indiana has 1,388 jurisdictional dams regulated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Dam Safety Program. Best practices allow for early detection and prevention of dam failures. One of the ways they mitigate risk is by monitoring baseline conditions and vegetation. For instance, trees along the embankment crest can erode grass and soils. That’s why vegetation at and around the dam always has to be well managed.

Prince’s Dam Breach

Princes Lake, a community in Johnson County, experienced severe flooding after heavy rains in 2008. One dam in the area failed, and two others were at risk. The flooding caused the lakes to overflow into each other, leading to evacuations and damage to properties. The National Guard was called in to assist, and an emergency Red Cross shelter was set up.

Final Thoughts on Largest Dam in Indiana

Boating In Indiana - Boating on Brookville Lake in Indiana, USA.

Brookville Lake is a popular spot for boaters, anglers, birders, and hikers.

©Anne Kitzman/

The Brookville Lake Dam stands tall as the largest dam in Indiana. The area is a gorgeous sight and offers a host of recreational opportunities. Whether you’re a fan of boating, fishing, hiking, or simply enjoying a picnic by the water, Brookville Lake has a lot to offer. Wildlife enthusiasts will be happy here, too, as there are plenty of birding opportunities, from the majestic bald eagle to the killdeer. Moreover, the history and cultural significance of the area adds another layer of fascination. While visiting, you can learn about the ancient Adena people and their burial mounds, one of which you can walk by on the Glidewell Trail.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Lovely Bird/

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About the Author

Crystal is a dedicated writer at A-Z Animals, focusing on topics related to mammals, insects, and travel. With over a decade of experience in the world of research and writing, she also fulfills the role of a skilled video and audio engineer. Residing in sunny Florida, alligators are Crystal's favorite animal.

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