Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

James Whitaker


Dams across the wide Missouri examines the political origins of Missouri River development plans. Rather than describe only the actions of the human players in the political arena, this study argues that the Missouri River had a tremendous effect on the human formulation and implementation of development schemes. Dams across the wide Missouri details the environmental changes that resulted from the construction of the barge channel below Sioux City, and to a lesser degree the consequences of dam and reservoir construction in Montana and the Dakotas;In addition, this study argues that neither federal elites nor grassroots organizations dictated the direction of Missouri River development. Instead, local interest groups and federal government entities cooperated with each other to successfully implement various development programs. Furthermore, responsibility for the transformation of the Missouri River and valley environments rests not only with the Corps of Engineers, but also with farmers, businessmen, industrialists, and urbanites who responded to the federal construction projects by clearing land along the river and converting it to agricultural, industrial, and residential purposes;This history suggests that Missouri River development was designed to benefit the agricultural sector of the American economy, especially through the establishment of a navigation channel along the river. Moreover, development progressed without sufficient information about the river environment. Even though the federal engineers continually learned about the Missouri and adapted their engineering techniques and technologies, they could not prevent negative, and costly, environmental repercussions. People paid a tremendous price for the benefits derived from damming and channelizing the river. Finally, the study suggests that valley residents and the public at-large may have been better off to have left the Missouri River alone and allowed the river to flow unimpeded to its confluence with the Mississippi.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Robert Kelley Schneiders



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

355 pages