Museum exhibit celebrates Elephant Butte Dam centennial; exhibit opening set for Oct. 13
By Mike Cook
Las Cruces Bulletin
At the time of its construction, Elephant Butte Dam was the largest U.S. Bureau of Reclamation project in the world. It brought “important change to southern New Mexico,” as the dam began storing water from the Rio Grande for irrigation, and eventually would produce hydroelectricity and become part of New Mexico’s most popular state park.
The New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum (NMFRHM) is celebrating the dam’s centennial with a special exhibit entitled “Elephant Butte Dam: Building a Future for Agriculture.”
The exhibit opening will be from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 13 at the museum, 4100 Dripping Springs Road. Admission is free and refreshments will be served.
Construction on the dam, located south of Truth or Consequences, began in 1911 and was completed in 1916, although it began filling the year before.
The dam is 301 feet high and 228 feet wide at its base, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. It contains 629,500 cubic yards of concrete. Its total storage is more than 2.1 million acre feet of water.
“When completed, the big dam will be 1,200 feet long on top at an elevation of 4,414 feet, which is 200 feet above the elevation of the original river surface,” according to an article published in “Popular Mechanics” magazine in 1915.
“The exhibit tells the story of what brought about the dam, how it was built, and what it provided to southern New Mexico,” according to the news release. “Dozens of historical photographs are part of the exhibit, as well as maps and information panels.
“The museum also has moved three early components of the dam to be displayed in front of the main building,” the news release continued. “The valve cylinder, top cap and bonnet were used to raise and lower the sluice gate at the dam. The sluice gate was used to flush rocks, gravel and debris from the dam. In the 1980s, these pieces of equipment were removed from the dam to make way for a more modern hydraulic operation. They were loaned to the Museum by the Bureau of Reclamation in 1996.
Also on Oct. 13, “Ben Craske, a recent graduate of New Mexico State University’s history masters program, will give a talk about the dam’s creation and how it fit into the country’s Progressive Era,” according to a NMFRHM news release. The presentation will begin at 7 p.m. in the museum’s theatre and will have free admission.
Craske “did months of archival research for his postgraduate studies on the subject of the dam,” NMFRHM said.
The exhibit will be on display through Sept. 24, 2017, the museum said.
“The exhibit is part of a celebration of the dam’s centennial,” the museum said. A number of events and activities are planned from Oct. 8 to 23 in the area around the dam. For more information, visit http://buttedamcentennial.wixsite.com/buttedamcentennial.
NMFRHM is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for senior citizens, $3 for children 4 to 17 and $2 for veterans.
For more information, call 522-4100 and visit www.nmfarmandranchmuseum.org.