Webbers Falls Lock and Dam is a project which was first authorized under the 1946 River and Harbor Act and later amended by the Flood Control Acts of 1948 and 1950. It is part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigational System and it’s purpose is to provide hydroelectric power along with flood control and to promote safe navigation of the Arkansas River. Construction started in 1965, by late 1970 the dam was operational and offically opened for navigation purposes in December of that year.
US Army Corps of Engineers -specs on Webbers Falls Lock and Dam
In the early years of settlement into the area, many steamboats had to anchor and unload their goods to traverse the Arkansas River between Webbers Falls and Fort Gibson when water levels were low. The Historic Falls, which were approximately 3 miles upstream of the present day Dam, were reportedly 6 to 7 foot high during normal periods of rainfall to the area. However, in times of little rainfall to the area, the falls were a mere trickle making it impossible for keelboats to navigate the river. The navigational channels were excavated through rocks which had once formed the Historic Falls. The area’s commerce was fueled by a Salt Plant established in 1820 and the goods were shipped down river via the Arkansas River to Louisiana.
The Dam’s other purpose is to control flooding downstream of areas such as Webbers Falls itself. In 1943, Webbers Falls saw a devastating flood after heavy rains plummeled the area from May 7th-11th with a second round of rains occuring over the period of May 16th through the 20th. Most areas reported over 5 inches of rain, with a few reporting up to 10 inches of rain, at the time it was considered to be the wettest May on record in Eastern Oklahoma.