The name of the book comes from John D. Ryan, when he was enthusiastic about the early investors that Rainbow Dam was producing “kilowatts of gold,” adding: “There is more gold in the water of the Missouri River than in many mines.
The Hauser Dam, the most upstream of the Missouri Dam Complex, has indeed almost had a very short lifespan. The dam, built by Montana’s early financiers and industrialists Samuel T. Hauser and other investors from his Helena Power & Transmission Company, was launched in 1906 and began operating in 1907. But on April 14, 1908, barely 15 months after it entered service, a 300-foot section of the dam face gave way, sending a huge wall of water down the river.
Larcombe writes: “Dam workers managed to phone emergency messages to communities downstream from Wolf Creek and Craig before fleeing. In addition to destroying the dam, water ripped houses, barns and other buildings, tore rail tracks in the river canyon, and swallowed livestock.
After the collapse, the design of the steel dam was found to be flawed, with insufficient piles to anchor the enormous structure. The dam was rebuilt, this time, as Larcombe writes, “with a concrete face anchored deep into the bedrock”, and resumed hydroelectric operation in 1911.
Now a visit to the dam’s cavernous power station, which had been flooded to the top of the arched windows just under the roof of the three-story structure when the collapse occurred, is to witness a miracle of ‘engineering.