Teton Dam Failure

The Teton Dam, 44 miles northeast of Idaho Falls in southeastern Idaho, failed abruptly on June 5, 1976. It released nearly 300,000 acre feet of water, then flooded farmland and towns downstream with the eventual loss of 14 lives, directly or indirectly, and with a cost estimated to be nearly $1 billion.

The purpose of this web page is to present a series of slides that show the breakup of the dam from its incipient failure stage to when the dam was completely breached. The slides were taken by Mrs. Eunice Olson of St. Anthony, Idaho, who presented the set to the Department of Earth Sciences, University of Notre Dame, to sell and to subsidize, thereby, a scholarship for undergraduate students in Earth sciences. The department, now the Department of Engineering and Geological Sciences, no longer sells the set, and has unofficially agreed that it would be a good thing to place this unique collection on the web. Attempts to contact Mrs.Olson have been unsuccessful, but nevertheless, all credit for the break up sequence of images belongs to her.

Slide Gallery

Narrative Overview

  • Geology of Teton Dam Site
  • Teton Dam Project
  • Construction of Teton Dam
  • Faults and Earthquakes
  • Dam Design and Construction
  • Reservoir Filling
  • Dam Failure
Teton dam in full flood. US Bureau of Reclamation image.

This web page was compiled and presented by Arthur G. Sylvester. You are welcome to use these images and materials for noncommercial, educational purposes such as school reports and scholarly presentations. They may be used also by media (television, magazines, newspapers, web) if the source is properly cited. If you do use any of my material, I would appreciate receiving a copy of what you produce. These images may not be used in any kind of a commercial package (such as clip art or screen saver). Full credit for the photographic images of the breakup must be given to Mrs. Eunice Olson. For additional information concerning usage, please contact me.

Links to other dam failures


Arthur Gibbs Sylvester
Department of Earth Science
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9630