Roosevelt Recreation Area was created in the early 1900s when the Teddy Roosevelt Dam was built for flood control and electricity generation and to create Roosevelt Lake for water storage. At the time it was built it was the highest masonry dam in the world and made a world of difference to this part of the country. In the 1980s a federal survey of dams determined that the dam was not high enough to provide flood protection, so it was rebuilt 36 feet higher (while the old one still retained the lake). As part of that reconstruction, a bridge was built across the river (the road had been across the top of the dam). The bridge is the largest two-lane, steel arch bridge in North America. The entire river gorge is quite amazing and beautiful. During the dam rebuilding, the water actually overflowed the old dam, but currently the reservoir is at just 43% of capacity.
On the hills above the reservoir is the Tonto National Monument, an area of cliff dwellings from the time of the Soldano people. Only one dwelling is open daily to the public; it was a nice climb up to it and very interesting. It’s remarkable to think that they made that walk down into the valley every day for water (1/2 mile — 350 feet of elevation change). Sadly these ruins were in very good shape when first documented in the 1800s, but much looting and vandalism meant that they were not in nearly as good shape when the National Park Service took control of them in the 1930s.