The construction of Wilson Dam began in 1918, a year after the United States entered World War I. The federal government built two nitrate plants at Muscle Shoals for the making of explosives, and Wilson Dam was constructed to supply the electricity needed to power the plants. TVA acquired Wilson Dam in 1933.
The site features a network of hiking and walking paths, including Old First Quarters Small Wild Area, named after a complex that housed engineers during Wilsons construction. Small feeder creeks run through the natural area, forming an ideal habitat for a variety of ferns, including the walking fern, a rarity in Alabama.
Visitors enjoy camping, boating, and fishing at Wilson Reservoir. The area is known as the Smallmouth Capital of the World for the trophy smallmouth bass caught there.
Wilson Reservoir, together with Pickwick and Wheeler reservoirs, covers the treacherous Muscle Shoals, which once blocked navigation on the Tennessee River.
Located off Reservation Road in Muscle Shoals, the visitor center is accessible year-around with daytime staffing except for for major holidays and in times of severe weather. Display panels near the power plant describe the struggle between private and public power interests for ownership of the Shoals facilities, which TVA inherited when the corporation was created in 1933.
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