Wilson Lock and Dam

Muscle Shoals, Alabama



The Shoals


Wilson Dam spans the Tennessee River between Lauderdale County and Colbert County, Alabama. It impounds Wilson Lake and is the oldest of nine Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) dams on the Tennessee River and one of 33 major TVA dams that provide flood control, regulate a 650 mile navigational channel, and provide over 100 billion kilowatt hours of electricity for the 7-State Tennessee Valley region.


Construction on Wilson Dam began in 1918 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and was completed in 1924. The Wilson Dam actually predates the TVA, but would later become the first hydroelectric operations placed under the authority of the TVA. The dam is 137 feet high and stretches 4,541 feet across the Tennessee River. The cost to build the dam was almost $47 million.

The main lock at Wilson Dam is 110 feet high by 600 feet long. The maximum lift is 100 feet. It is the highest single lift lock east of the Rocky Mountains. An auxiliary lock has two 60 feet deep by 300 feet long chambers that operate in tandem. Over 3,700 vessels pass through Wilson Dam's locks each year. The U.S. Corps of Engineers operate the navigation locks and not the TVA.

The generating capacity of Wilson Dam is 675 megawatts of electricity. The dam, named for former President of the United States Woodrow Wilson, was declared a National Historic Landmark on November 13th, 1966. 

The area around the dam features a network of hiking and walking paths, including Old First Quarters Small Wild Area, named after a complex that housed engineers during Wilsonís construction. Small feeder creeks run through the natural area, forming an ideal habitat for a variety of ferns, including the walking fern, a rarity in Alabama.

Visitors enjoy camping, boating, and fishing at Wilson Reservoir. The area is known as the Smallmouth Capital of the World for the trophy smallmouth bass caught there.

I got a fantastic tour of the area. My brother lives only a few miles from the dam, so I got the local perspective!!!

Wilson Lock and Dam
Highway 133 North
Muscle Shoals, Alabama




Wilson Reservoir

Water release


Justa fishin

Power complex


Road across dam



Restaurant and new hotel on north side

Dam construction 1919