GRDA Enabling Act Signed

In 1935, the Grand River Dam Authority was created to be a “conservation and reclamation district for the waters of the Grand River” and tasked with building dams along the river for the purposes of hydroelectric generation and flood control.

GRDA responded to that task by completing Pensacola Dam in 1940. The world’s longest, continuous multiple arch dam, Pensacola Dam was also the state’s first hydroelectric facility. It stretches for a mile across the Grand River Valley to create Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees and harness the power of falling water. Since its completion, the dam has continued to be an important part of GRDA’s overall electric generation portfolio.

More Hydro Power

In the 1960s, GRDA was once again in the construction mode and added the Robert S. Kerr Dam (Lake Hudson) to its hydroelectric portfolio in 1964. Located just a few miles downstream from Pensacola Dam, Kerr is the second hydroelectric facility on the Grand River and further boosted GRDA’s ability to put the flowing water of the Grand River to work for Oklahoma. Just a few years after Kerr Dam began commercial operations, GRDA also completed the first phase of the Salina Pumped Storage Project (SPSP) in 1968. Located on the Saline Creek arm of Lake Hudson, the SPSP was GRDA’s answer to growing customer demands for electricity. With all the possible conventional hydroelectric locations already utilized, GRDA turned to the pumped storage idea to continue to utilize the waters of the river. Though many critics called it “experimental” and claimed it would “break the Authority” the project, like both Kerr and Pensacola, continues to play an in important role in GRDA’s overall electric generation. The second phase of the project was completed in 1972.

GRDA adds Coal

By the late 1970s, customer demands for electricity were increasing and GRDA was looking towards coal as a way to expand its generation portfolio. Soon, the Oklahoma Legislature gave its approval to the plan by voting to allow GRDA to increase its debt ceiling in order to construct the two unit GRDA Coal Fired Complex. Unit 1 went online in 1982 and Unit 2 followed in 1986. The addition of this powerful generation asset transformed GRDA from a small producer of hydroelectricity in Northeast Oklahoma to a major electricity producer for the region.

Throughout this period of electricity system growth and development, GRDA also continued its role as a steward of the Grand River system. Grand Lake’s creation in 1940 changed the area surrounding from a rugged, rural landscape into a prime destination for water-related recreation of all kinds. Economic development, growth and population increases in the lakes region (Grand and Hudson) were the result. From the earliest days of Grand Lake, GRDA was providing lake patrols to promote water safety, assist lake visitors and respond to emergencies.

Taking Care of the environment

In 2004, GRDA further enhanced its role as a conservation and reclamation district for the water with the establishment of its Ecosystems Management Department. A few years after that, in 2010, GRDA again raised the profile on lake management with the completion of the Ecosystems and Education Center. Today, the building is home to both the GRDA Police Department and Ecosystems Management Department, as well as lake permitting, shoreline management personnel and other lake-related functions.

Diversifying the power portfolio

Back on the electric generation side, GRDA further enhanced its system in 2008 by purchasing a 36 percent interest in the Red Bud Plant, a natural gas generation facility near Luther, Oklahoma. In 2012, GRDA brought even more diversity to its portfolio after signing power purchase agreement with an Oklahoma wind farm. GRDA would add more wind power in subsequent years. Then, in October 2017, the Authority officially cut the ribbon on its Unit 3 combined cycle gas generation facility, located adjacent to its coal units, at the Grand River Energy Center (GREC). Like the SPSP had been nearly 50 years earlier, Unit 3 was also innovative and ground-breaking in Oklahoma. Equipped with first gas turbine of its kind ever placed in the Western Hemisphere, the unit was already the most efficient 60 hertz power plant in the world on the day it was dedicated.

Today, GRDA continues to write its Oklahoma success story around its “5 E’s mission” of employees, electricity, environmental stewardship, economic development and efficiency.

Visit Oklahoma’s First HydroElectric Facility

When construction was completed in 1940, Pensacola Dam began its mission to produce renewable hydroelectricity, provide flood control and hold back the waters that create majestic Grand Lake. We invite you to come see firsthand how this important and historic structure still meets the same mission that spurred its creation years ago.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Due to ongoing maintenance in the powerhouse, tours will not be available during Summer 2022.

Free TOURS start at GRDA’s Ecosystems & Education Center, located adjacent to Pensacola Dam, in Langley.
Memorial Day – Labor Day
9:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M. Tours start every hour on the hour and are available 7 days a week.  

Every individual 18 years of age and older must present a valid driver’s license, state issued ID card or International VISA to tour the dam.

At other times, GRDA does offer off season tours for 10 or more people. Those are scheduled based on tour guide availability. 

Pensacola Dam
Jct. Hwy 82 & 28, PO Box 70, Langely, OK 74350-0070.