Teton Dam Disaster: June 5, 1976

Teton Dam Rupture

The hole in the Teton Dam grows

June 5th, 2006; the 30 year anniversary of the Teton Dam Break.
UPDATED: This page has been updated to remove some erroneous facts sourced from other webpages. The data I obtained from the Bureau of Reclamation can be found here

The Teton Dam was built on the Teton River upstream from Rexburg, Idaho. at 11:57 am on June 5, 1976 the dam broke, the resulting flood killed 14 people and some estimates put the damage done by the colapse of the 100 million dollar dam, at one billion dollars. Actual federal approved claims totalled almost 400 million dollars. I know a few people who lived there at the time, the stories are incredible.

This is an amazing picture, it was taken by Eunice Olson as the dam broke. Her other shots are an entire sequence of the dam breaking. An arial shot of the break. Here are some great pictures of the flood damage. The next photo was taken sometime after the waters reached the town of Rexburg, photographer unknown.

Rexburg, Idaho after Teton Dam Breach

Rexburg Flood Water

I won’t post copies of all the accounts of the breach (links to those at the bottom) but the initial response of the Sheriff and others was very much disbelief. I have to say I probably wouldn’t have believed it at first either. The next day, the operators of American Falls Dam prepared for the incresed intake. It took almost two days for the 300,000 acre feet of water to reach American Falls. The American Falls Dam wasn’t in the best condition, and was in the process of being replaced. The old dam could hold about 1.2 million acre-feet the replacement dam was being constructed just downstream from the old one but wasn’t done yet. The water released was almost a quater of the capacity of American Falls, obviously it didn’t reach there all at the same time. Here is the data I recieved from the Bureau of Reclamation concerning American Falls at the time of the Teton Failure

A committe was formed in the late 80s to consider rebuilding the dam. To this day, the remains of the Dam are pretty much unchanged aside from

Google Image Search: Teton Dam

Bureau of Reclamation: Teton Dam

Other Sources:
Teton Dam Failure
Teton Dam – Wikipedia


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  1. Judy Snyder July 29, 2006 at 10:30 PM #

    I was born in Rexburg in 1944. I didn’t realize that the Teton Dam break had flooded Rexburg. This is very interesting to me. Thank you.

  2. Glenn Roth September 10, 2006 at 1:10 PM #

    I am interested in any articles, websites, or information that you have regarding the involvement of Ham radio operators in the Teton Dam collapse and aftermath. I remember hearing that amateur operators aided in getting the word out that the dam was collapsing, in addition to providing communications in the aftermath. Do you have information on this?

  3. Zeb September 12, 2006 at 2:28 PM #

    ya know… being a ham, you’d think that I would have pointed that out. I meant to….

    Really though, I didn’t find much about ham involvement. I did find it mentioned in a few places but never anything specific, just the usual “ham radio operators were handleing emergency messages” type lines in an article or two.

    Most of the stuff on the net is about the actual dam break and immediate situation, I kept wanting more info on the long term recovery.

    anyway, I’ll look through my bucket of links and see if anything comes up and I’ll post it here & email you a copy.