Prior to the first white settlement, the Smith Fork region of the Platte River country was largely inhabited by the Missouri Indian Tribe. Once one of the most power-full Indian tribes in the region, it was this tribe that lent its name to the Missouri River.
One of the first settlers in the Little Platte Valley was Humphrey Smith. Smith found a suitable fall in the creek and built a water-powered mill, the first flour mill in Clay County. A town eventually grew up around the mill and the village became known as Smith's Mill. The site later became present day Smithville.
Undoubtedly, the most notorious men from the area were the James Gang of the post-Civil War period. Frank and Jessie James were sons of a respected Baptist minister of Clay County, and Jesse was born just a few miles from the Little Platte River. After the war, the James brothers robbed banks and railroads, and indulged in other acts of lawlessness that gained them an image as outlaw folk heroes. Jesse James' home, located near Kearney, Missouri, has been designated as a National Historic Site and is open to the public.
Smithville Dam is constructed of rolled earth and is 4,000 feet long and stands 90 feet above the streambed. The dam's impervious core consists of highly compacted clay that is virtually water tight. A sand drain allows any water that passes through the clay core to exit safely through the dam. The outlet works, consisting of the control tower, conduit and stilling basin, permits the controlled release of water through the dam. The control tower is equipped with two hydraulically-operated gates which regulate the flow of water through the conduit. The stilling basin reduces the force of the water flowing downstream into the river channel.
Length of dam: 4000 ft.
Height of dam above streambed: 90 ft.
Crown Width: 30 ft.
Base Width: 90 ft.
Volume of Concrete in dam: 12,000 cubic yards
Volume of Earth fill: 3,200,000 cubic yards
Type: 8’x9’ concrete box
Capacity: 3490 cubic feet per second
Length of conduit: 664 ft.