Where We Be
In 1994 the American Society of Civil Engineers selected
Itaipu Dam as one of the Seven Modern Wonders of the World
Itaipu Dam -- Brazil & Paraguay
Itaipu Dam is the second largest hydroelectric
facility in the world in terms of annual energy
generation, second only to Three Gorges Dam
in China. By far the coolest thing about Itaipu is
the spillway. When the lake is full they release
excess water via the spillway. They only do this
about 10% of the time each year, but we were
lucky. The spillway discharges forty times more
water than Iguazu Falls’ average flow! Water
gushes off the end of a ramp into the air then
comes crashing down, sending up billowing
waves of mist. They say it’s to disperse the
water more evenly or some such, but we think
it’s mostly because it looks freakin' awesome.

The midpoint of the dam marks the midpoint of
the Parana River dividing Brazil from Paraguay.
Itaipu is jointly operated by both nations. We
passed through Paraguay as part of our tour
when the bus drove us over the top of the dam.
Itaipu Dam is one of the most expensive objects ever built. Earth and rock
excavation volumes at Itaipu were 8½ times greater than at the Channel Tunnel.
You really feel the immense power of the water up close.
That's forty times more water than Iguazu Falls on average!
Behind the dam is a huge artificial reservoir. Heavy rains and flooding in 1982 accelerated the filling of the
reservoir -- it only took two weeks for the water to rise 100 meters (330 feet) and reach the gates of the spillway!
After crossing the dam, we got a final view
of the spillway from a different angle
Astounding view of the spillway from the top of the dam
At the midpoint of the dam (and the river) we crossed into Paraguay.
Both flags, Brazilian and Paraguayan, fly at the binational site.
The bus took us right over the top of
the dam, something we hadn't expected
Getting all that hydroelectric power where it needs to go is a huge undertaking in itself.
The majority of the power is carried 800 km (500 mi) to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
The dam itself may not look as dramatic as the spillway, but here is where the real engineering marvel is:
14,000 megawatts of hydroelectric power being generated using 20 generating units at 700 MW each
We almost didn't take the time to see
Itaipu Dam but we're glad we did
What a sight! Keep in mind the spillway is for EXCESS
water that isn't being used to generate power.
The sign says "Itaipu Binacional" in honor of the binational agreement
between Brazil and Paraguay that makes the dam possible
This illustration gives a good overview of the dam. The name Itaipu means “sounding
stone” in Guarani and was taken from an island that existed near the construction site.
We paid a taxi R$ 180 (~$45 US) to take us round-trip from our
hostel to Itaipu, 40 minutes away. A bus took us on the tour itself.