150 Boise icons: Lucky Peak Dam

June 7, 2013 

If you grew up in Boise, there's a fair chance you've said or heard the words, "Let's go to Lucky Peak," about a million times.

The site of school field trips and family outings, The Lucky Peak complex on Idaho 21 includes the dam, a lake, a power plant, more than 4,000 acres of public lands and Sandy Point, a little beach with its own fountain-like aeration spout.

The curve of Sandy Point is the natural curve of the river.

"If the dam were not there, the bend would still be there," said Joyce Dunning, operations manager for the Army Corps of Engineers at Lucky Peak.

The corps began building Lucky Peak in 1949 - a few years after Congress authorized the Flood Control Act of 1946. The dam opened in June 1955 to much fanfare, said Dunning.

Lucky Peak is a "rolled earthfill" dam. Engineers found an anchor of solid bedrock, dynamited to reach it and began building the dam with dirt and rocks, said Dunning.

The dam is about 250 feet tall. Flood control and irrigation make the water levels in the lake fluctuate by as much as 150 feet - hence the chalky horizontal lines visible on the slopes down to the water.

Lucky Peak's name harks back to the gold rush days of the 1860s, said Dunning. Prospectors identified a couple of spots where they thought they might find the precious metal. They found it on Shaw Mountain on an outcropping that came to be called Lucky Peak.

As the story goes, there was an "Unlucky Peak" as well where prospectors weren't so fortunate. Dunning has yet to find that peak on a map.

Anyone know which is Unlucky Peak? Let us know: awebb@idahostatesman.com

Connect with Lucky Peak

- The Ironman 70.3 swim competition takes place Saturday at Lucky Peak Lake.

- Mary Hallock Foote: "A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West" presentation. Foote and her husband (who pioneered irrigation canals in the Boise Valley), built a house not far from the present Lucky Peak Dam. Only a few foundation stones are left of their homesite, a past icon in this series. Hallock Foote's book, "A Victorian Gentlewoman in the Far West," chronicles her experiences and ambivalence about western life.

Scholar Louise Weitman gives a presentation and leads a discussion of the book, 6 p.m., Thursday, June 13, in the Marion Bingham Room at the Boise Public Library, 715 S. Capitol Blvd. 384-4076.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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