Drowned Towns

Mysteries and other fiction with a featured element of intentional submerging, inundating, and flooding of towns, villages, cities, and other places as a consequence of building dams and reservoirs for water supply, hydroelectric power, irrigation, flood management, and job creation. The core of this list was developed by a retired librarian in Pennsylvania, with additions by members of DorothyL and FictionL in August 2006, and many many additions over decades from librarian extraordinaire Denny Lien (University of Minnesota libraries, RIP, 1945-2023). The apt term 'Reservoir Noir' comes from crime novelist Peter Robinson. Suggestions for additional titles always welcome.

Following the list of books is a partial list of real drowned towns, most in the U.S.

Find these titles at your local library or through ABEbooks, AddALL, and other used and out-of-print book dealers.

Some descriptions are taken verbatim, or in essence, from review sources such as Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal, and from booksellers' descriptions.

Reservoir Noir (Crime Novels)

Scott Carson
Alan Dipper
Eileen Dunlop
Lee Harris
Reginald Hill
Donald James
James D. Landis
Jane Langton
Julia Wallis Martin
Sharyn McCrumb
Michael Miano
Ron Rash
Rick Riordan
Peter Robinson
Lisa See
Paul Somers (aka Paul Winterton)
Julia Spencer-Fleming
Donald Westlake
John Morgan Wilson
Stuart Woods

Other Drowned Town Fiction

Mabel Esther Allan
Stephen Bacon
Andrea Barrett
John Blackburn
Matthew J. Costello
Borden Deal
Berlie Doherty
Ivan Doig
Steve Duffy
Tom Dulaney
Sylvia Fair
Sarah Hall
Elodie Harper
Mollie Hunter
Brian Knight
Jackie French Koller
Elisabeth Kyle (pseud. of Agnes Mary Robertson Dunlop)
Kathryn Lasky
Tim Lebbon
H.P. Lovecraft
Sue Miller
Nicholas Olde
June Oldham
Margaret Paice
Alice and Martin Provensen
Conrad Richter
Lynda E. Rucker
Michael Shea
Brian Stableford 
Nova Ren Suma
Jonathan Thomas
Steven Utley and Jessica Reisman
Robert Penn Warren
William F. Weld
Jane Yolen

Note: The plot of the horror film 'In Dreams' (Dreamworks, 1999), set in New York state, involves a town that 25 years ago was flooded to make way for a new reservoir. The killer claims to have been chained to a bed in the town when it was flooded. He's now a grown man who goes around the thick woods, stealing little girls and then killing them. It stars Annette Bening, Aidan Quinn, Devon Borisoff, Robert Downey, Stephen Rea, and is directed by Neil Jordan. It's based rather loosely on the book Doll's Eyes by Bari Wood (1993).

Non-Fiction about Drowned Towns

Thomas Conuel
James L. Douthat
David and Joan Hay
Allen Holt
David Howarth
Elizabeth Peirce
Joyce Hunsinger Pogany
Lesley Ross, ed.

Real Drowned Towns

Alabama: the town of Irma, under Lake Martin

Arizona: Alamo Crossing, a mining town now under 100 feet of water in Lake Alamo; town of La Laguna, under Mittry Lake. Lake Havasu City (and lake), created with the construction of Parker Dam in the 1930s, drowned several small towns: 'When the thirst for water altered the terrain with the construction of Parker Dam in the 1930s, ... obscure little villages and communities were flooded and disappeared as the shoreline was widened. Left behind was a ghostly reminder of another time, as the tops of trees danced eerily beneath the surface of the blue waters.'

Arkansas: Several towns, including Miller, under Greers Ferry Lake on the Little Red River (1959-1962); the town of Custer by Norfork Lake; the town of Fir by Lake Ouachita; the town of Hand by Norfork Lake

California: Hetch Hetchy Valley, a glacial valley in Yosemite National Park in California, was flooded in 1923 by O'Shaughnessy Dam, forming the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir; Jacksonville, near Sonora, under Lake Don Pedro; Melones, near Sonora, under New Melones Lake; Monticello, near Napa, evacuated for Lake Berryessa Reservoir, and Redbud Park inundated by same; Heroult, Kennett, Baird, and Copper City, for Lake Shasta in 1944; the town Lorraine by Thermalito Afterbay; the town of Minersville by Clair Engle Lake; the town of Pleyto by San Antonio Reservoir; the towns of Foster Bar, Bullards Bar, and Garden Valley by Bullards Bar Reservoir; the town of Salmon Falls by Folsom Lake; the towns of South Fork, Bloomer, Bidwell Bar, Bidwell, and Enterprise by Lake Oroville; the town of Mussey Grove by San Vicente Reservoir; the town of Isabella by Isabella Lake; the town of El Capitan by El Capitan Reservoir; the town of Cedar Springs by Silverwood Lake; the town of Auld by Skinner Reservoir; the town of Hullville by Lake Pillsbury; the towns of Lexington and Alma, for the James J. Lenihan Dam and Lexington Reservoir (around 1950), near Los Gatos; the town of Petersburg, under the New Hogan Reservoir; town of Picacho, mostly submerged when Laguna Dam completed 1909; Mormon Island in Folsom Lake, near Sacramento.

Colorado: Sopris, for the Trinidad Dam and Reservoir; McPhee for the McPhee Reservoir; the town of Iola by Blue Mesa Reservoir

Connecticut: the village of Barkhamsted Hollow, for Barkhamsted Reservoir on the Farmington River (Saville Dam, 1940)

Florida: the town of Butler due to construction of the Jim Woodruff Reservoir.

Georgia: the towns of Petersburg and Lisbon when Strom Thurmond Lake was created; the town of Oketeyeconne by Walter F. George Reservoir; the town of Hunt by Chatuge Lake.

Idaho: the town of American Falls, for the American Falls Reservoir and Dam (1910s-1920s); the town of Montour, for the Black Canyon Dam.

Indiana: the town of Monument City, flooded in 1965 to create the Salamonie Reservoir.

Kansas: towns under Tuttle Creek Lake on the Big Blue River, near Manhattan (1962; one town was rebuilt elsewhere: Randolph, Kansas)

Maine: the towns of Dead River and Flagstaff, flooded in 1949 when the Flagstaff Dam was built and Flagstaff Lake was created on the Dead River in western Maine.

Maryland: the town of Conowingo when Conowingo Dam was built in 1928; 1809 mill town Triadelphia, inundated in 1931 by Triadelphia Reservoir; the town of Shamburg by Prettyboy Reservoir; the towns of Dulaney Valley and Bosley by Loch Raven Reservoir.

Massachusetts: the towns of Boylston, West Boylston, Clinton and Sterling, for the Wachusett Reservoir (1897-1908); town of Dana, North Dana, Millington, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott, on the Swift River for the Quabbin Reservoir

Missouri: the towns of Theodosia and Forsyth when the Bull Shoals Dam and Lake was built on the White River in 1951; the town of Shawnee Bend, inundated by the creation of the Lake of the Ozarks by Bagnell Dam in 1931.

Montana: the town of Nagos, inundated by Lake Koocanusa; towns and homes near Glasgow, Mont., flooded by Fort Peck Dam on the Missouri River (1933-1940), created to provide flood control, hydroelectric power, and 10,000 jobs during the Depression -- it is the largest hydraulically filled dam in the United States and created the fifth largest man-made lake in the U.S., Fort Peck Lake; the town of Armstead (inundated), plus Routes 91 (rebuilt as Interstate 15) and the main line of the Union Pacific RR, for Clark Canyon Dam and Reservoir in Beaverhead County (1961-1964), created for downstream irrigation and flood control; the town of Rexford, Highway 37, the Great Northern Railroad line, for Libby Dam and Lake Koocanusa (1970s).

Nevada: St. Thomas, under Lake Mead when the art deco Boulder Dam (aka Hoover Dam) was built on the Colorado River in 1931-1936, but due to drought conditions has been visible again since the late 1990s.

New Mexico: town of Paraje, submerged by Elephant Butte Lake when Elephant Butte Dam built, 1912-1916

New York: Neversink and Bittersweet, New York, now under the Neversink Reservoir; the towns of Olive, West Shokan, Brodhead Bridge, Brown's Station, Boiceville, West Hurley, Glenford and Ashton (in the Catskills) to create Ashokan Reservoir; the towns of Beerston, Cannonsville, Rock Rift, Rock Royal and Granton, for Cannonsville Reservoir; the towns of Arena, Pepacton, Shavertown and Union Grove, for Pepacton Reservoir; the towns of Eureka, Montela and Lackawack, for Rondout Reservoir (1937-1954); the town of Gilboa for Schoharie Reservoir in the Catskills (1919-1927); the town of Southeast, on the Croton River (Sodom Dam), to create East Branch Reservoir, Middle Branch Reservoir, Bog Brook Reservoir and Diverting Reservoir (info and photos here); Concord, partially flooded in 1930 when the Conklingville dam created the Sacandaga Reservoir (now Great Sacandaga Lake).

North Carolina: the towns of Judson and Fontana, to create Fontana Lake; the town of Tuscola, inundated by the creation of Lake Junaluska and Lake Junaluska Dam. Hills Camp is under Lake Mohave, which was created by Davis Dam.

North Dakota: Sanish (Old Sanish), Elbowoods, Lucky Mound, Shell Creek, Nishu, Charging Eagle, Beaver Creek, Red Butte, Independence, and Van Hook (some towns are part of Fort Berthold Indian Reservation), flooded for Lake Sakakawea in 1953 (see photo of dam in progress); town of Moe, under the Garrison Reservoir (1950s).

Ohio: the town of Elk Lick by William H. Harsha Lake

Oregon: the town of Arlington, in Gilliam County, relocated uphill from its original location to make way for the John Day Dam, constructed on the Columbia River (1958-1968) and creating Lake Umatilla, along with the towns of Boardman and Umatilla, also relocated for the dam.

Pennsylvania: the town of Corydon, and tribal lands and gravesites, flooded in the 1965 for Kinzua Dam and Allegheny Reservoir and in the 1990s partially uncovered due to low water levels; the town of Pritchard by Lake Cowanesque; town (Wilsonville?) under Lake Wallenpaupack (1924-1926)

Rhode Island: the towns of Kent, Richmond, Ashland, South Scituate, Saundersville, Rockland and Ponaganset, and mills at Clayville, Elmdale, Harrisdale and Glenrock, plus almost 1,500 graves (relocated), for the Scituate Reservoir (1915-1926) (some interesting controversy and history of the Scituate Reservoir 2016).

South Carolina: the towns in the Saluda Valley, under Lake Murray (Saluda Dam, 1920s); the towns of Andersonville and Price by Hartwell Lake

South Dakota: Bear Gulch II, submerged beneath the waters of Pactola Lake

Tennessee: the town of Butler, in 1948 by the TVA for Watauga Dam and Reservoir; towns under Norris Lake, created by the TVA's Norris Dam (1933-1936), for hydroelectric and flood control structure, on the Clinch River; the town of Willow Grove, for Dale Hollow Reservoir (1942)

Texas: Guerrero Viejo, a colonial town from the 1750s -- which includes Nuestra Senora del Refugio, a historic Spanish mission -- when the U.S. and Mexico dammed the Rio Grande to create Falcon Lake Reservoir in 1953; the town of Old Zapata, inundated by the Falcon Dam Reservoir; the town of Calliham, for the Choke Canyon Dam and Reservoir (1982) on the Frio River (flowing to the Nueces River); the town of Addicks near Houston for the Addicks Dam Reservoir (mid 1940s); the panhandle town of Saints Roost, under water in the Greenbelt Reservoir; town of Swartwout, inundated by Livingston Dam/Reservoir on the Trinity River; houses, farmsteads, orchards, and farms submerged by Lake Travis with the Mansfield Dam (originally called the Marshall Ford Dam), on the Colorado River, built in 1937-1941.

Utah: Connellsville, under Electric Lake; the old mining town of Hite, under Lake Powell; the town of Rockport, under the Rockport Reservoir (1950s).

Virginia: the town of Greenwood, inundated by Lake Moomaw

Washington: 3,000 people (including Indian tribes) in the towns of Kettle Falls, Peach, Keller, Lincoln, Inchelium, Gerome, Marcus, Gifford, Boyds, Fort Covile, and Daisy evacuated for Lake Roosevelt, formed by the Grand Coulee Dam (1933-1941) on the Columbia River, which was built for the purpose of irrigation; the town of Moncton, submerged by Rattlesnake Lake and Masonry Dam on the Cedar River Watershed (1912-1915) to provide drinking water for Seattle; the town of Roosevelt, relocated for the building of the John Day Dam and creation of Lake Umatilla on the Columbia River (1958-1968).

West Virginia: the towns of Yates, Sandy, and Stone House, inundated by Tygart Lake; the town of Morrison by Summersville Dam.

For more: Immersed Remains: Towns Submerged in America has more history, and photos, of some drowned towns in the U.S.

Outside United States

Canada: the town of Minnewanka, Alberta, for Lake Minnewanka (1912; 1941); the mining town of Minto, British Columbia, for Carpenter Reservoir; towns of West Kootenay, British Columbia, including Arrowhead, Beaton, Needles and Waneta, drowned for reservoirs and power dams; the town of Upper Mill Ville by Mactequac Lake, New Brunswick; the towns of Mille Roches, Moulinette, Wales, Dickinson's Landing, Farran's Point, and Aultsville, near Cornwall, Ontario, for a hydro dam on the St. Lawrence River in 1958.

United Kingdom: The towns of Derwent and Ashopton for Ladybower Dam: The building of the reservoir resulted in the submergence of the villages of Ashopton and Derwent, including Derwent Woodlands church and Derwent Hall. Ashopton stood roughly where the road to the Snake Pass met the Snake valley. The buildings in Ashopton were demolished before the reservoir was filled, but much of the structure of Derwent village was still visible during a dry summer some 14 years later. The narrow stone Packhorse Bridge over the Derwent was removed and rebuilt at the head of the Howden reservoir. The clock tower of the church had been left standing and the upper part of it was visible above the water level until 1947, when it was seen as a hazard and demolished with explosives on 15 December  In 1976, 1995 and 2018, dry conditions caused the water level to drop and the village of Derwent to once again be exposed. On 3 November 2018 a man had to be rescued by a mountain rescue team after getting stuck in extremely thick mud around the ruins of the village. [Wikipedia]

Also: the village of Hambleton, inundated by Rutland Water; the mill village of Goyt in Derbyshire; and the town of Mardale in the Lake District, flooded by Haweswater Reservoir.

Australia: Old Jyndabyne Township, New South Wales, for the Jyndabyne Dam Project

New Zealand: Cromwell (South Island) partially flooded in the 1980s to create Lake Dunstan, to power a hydroelectric dam

Italy: the town of Fabbriche di Careggine, under Lake Vagli -- every ten years the lake is emptied for maintenance and the town is visible.

Buenos Aires, Argentina, S.A.: Federacion was submerged (residents relocated) in 1979 when the Salto Grande Dam was built, on the border with Uruguay.

Colombia, S.A.: the old colonial town of Guatavita was flooded to create a hydro-electric reservoir, Tomin Reservoir (1967)

Brazil, S.A.: the original city of Nova Ponte plus 8 other municipalities, due to the Nova Ponte Hydropower Plant dam and reservoir (1987-1994)

India: the town of Harsud, in Madhya Pradesh, flooded in 2005 for the Narmada Dam project, to provide hydroelectric power and irrigation for crops; the village of Khandal, the town of Tehri, and other villages, for the Tehri Dam (1990s)

Burma: tens of thousands of people forcibly relocated for the proposed TA Sarong hydroelectric dam and its reservoir, on the Salween River in northeastern Burma (2000).

Russia: the town of Atalanka and others along the the shores of the Angara (in Siberia), intentionally flooded in 1961 as a result of the construction downriver of several dams and the Bratsk hydroelectric station.

Bulgaria: the village of Zhivovtsi technically no longer exists. When the communist government decided to build a reservoir in 1966, villagers destroyed their own homes to make way for the new body of water. The Ogosta reservoir flooded the empty plain where the settlement once stood. Today, the ruins of the Holy Ascension Church are all that physically remains of Zhivovtsi. But for the hundreds of people who once lived in the village, less tangible remains also survive. Izgubeni Pod Vodata (“Lost Under the Water”) collects and shares personal histories, archival photos, and cultural works from these now submerged towns. 

China: millions of people are expected to be transplanted from 153 towns and 4,500 villages (and several temples submerged) when the Three Gorges Dam is completed.


Re: dam-l towns submerged by lakes by Damon Scott. Additionally, Dennis Lien has provided numerous pointers and citations over the years.