Hungry Horse Dam: A story for the ages

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At its best, local journalism is about telling the story of a community — past, present and future. Our most important stories are YOUR stories.

It was a privilege for the Daily Inter Lake to share a big slice of the history of the Flathead, and its people, with our readers over the last week as we wrote about the construction of the Hungry Horse Dam 65 years ago.

The project first started to take shape during the summer when we asked our readers to submit their stories to us about the dam construction project, which took place from 1948 to 1953. Some were sons and daughters of crew members, but there were also many workers in their 80s and 90s who treasured their time on the dam project and wanted to pass along part of the lore before it was lost.

The stories told by folks like Duane Enger, Paul Cannaday, Quentin Vitt, Francis VanRinsum, Pat McVay and many others make the giant concrete and steel colossus come alive with blood and sweat and more than a few tears as there were lives lost in the construction project — and lives changed forever. Dozens of family members contacted us about their loved ones who helped build the dam, and even though we simply couldn’t share everyone’s stories with our readers, we appreciate all who reached out to the Inter Lake.

The Hungry Horse Dam project is an inspiring tale that reminds us of what American ingenuity and hard work can accomplish. The electricity produced by the dam — 1 billion kilowatt hours per year — when added to the dam’s ability to mitigate flood disasters is a continuing testament to the impact of engineering on modern life.

The dam is also a lasting monument to the thousands of workers who made it happen. We owe them all a debt of gratitude.

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