The dam was authorized as Foster Creek Dam and Powerhouse for power generation and irrigation by the River and Harbor Act of 1946. The River and Harbor Act of 1948 renamed the project Chief Joseph Dam in honor of the Nez Perce chief who spent his last years in exile on the Colville Indian Reservation.
Construction began in 1949, with the main dam and intake structure completed in 1955. Turbine units 1-16 were placed in service between 1955 and 1958. The dam has a spillway of 980 feet and has 19 gates. The dam has a powerhouse viewpoint on the south side and the north side allows you to view the spillgates up close.
To read the complete history of the dam and the surrounding area please visit the official website.