About This Lesson
The Minidoka Dam and Powerplant is individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This lesson uses information from the National Register of Historic Places documentation entitled "Minidoka Dam and Powerplant" (with photos); a report entitled "Minidoka Dam, Powerplant and South Side Pump Division," prepared by Fraserdesign and Hess Roise and Company for the Bureau of Reclamation; the book Dams, Dynamos, and Development: The Bureau of Reclamation's Power Program and Electrification of the West, by Toni Rae Linenberger with initial assistance from Leah S. Glaser; and other Reclamation publications. The lesson was written by Marilyn Harper, historian, and edited by Teaching with Historic Places and Reclamation staff. This lesson is one in a series that brings the important stories of historic places into classrooms across the country.
Where it fits into the curriculum
Topics: This lesson could be used in American history, social studies, geography, government, and civics courses, in units on the Progressive Era, history of the West, cultural geography, science, or the history of technology.
Time period: Early to mid-20th century
Relevant United States History Standards for Grades 5-12
Relevant Curriculum Standards for Social Studies
Find your state's social studies and history standards for grades Pre-K-12
Objectives for students
1) To describe the construction and early history of the Minidoka Project and Powerplant,
2) To explain the creation and development of electric power on the Minidoka Project and changes in the hydropower program of the Bureau of Reclamation as a whole,
3) To describe how the availability of electricity changed the lives of people living on the project,
4) To list the steps in turning falling water into electric power,
5) To prepare an exhibit or other interpretive product on power-related resources in the students' local area.
Materials for students
The materials listed below can either be used directly on the computer or can be printed out, photocopied, and distributed to students. The maps and images appear twice: in a low-resolution version with associated questions and alone in a larger, high-resolution version.
1) One map, showing the arid West;
2) Three readings, about the history of the Minidoka Project, on the development of hydropower on the project, and on how project settlers used electricity in their daily lives;
3) Two illustrations, one schematic drawing of a hydroelectric generator and one drawing showing the Minidoka Project; and
4) Five photos including four historic images of the Minidoka Powerplant, life on the project, and the project landscapes.
Visiting the site
The Minidoka Project is located on either side of the Snake River in southeast Idaho. The project's irrigated fields are visible from Interstate 84/86 in the area around the towns of Rupert and Burley and from a number of state highways and local roads accessible from the Interstate. The fields are private property and not open to visitors.
During World War II, the Minidoka Relocation Center was established on Minidoka Project land. It housed more than 7,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, most of them American citizens, relocated from their homes on the West Coast as the result of post-Pearl Harbor hysteria. The Minidoka Relocation Center is now a National Historic Site, administered by the National Park Service. For more information and directions, please consult the website for the historic site.
Birders will enjoy Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge, on the shore of Lake Walcott. Campers and boaters are welcome at Lake Walcott State Park.