Sunday, June 5, 2016

Wilmington Dam and Mill Races

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We have had a few 1" rains the past couple of weeks, so I asked the fisherman on the right if the river was high. He said about medium. He said you can normally see more rocks so he estimated it was a foot higher than normal. When I was there, you could see only two rocks. It does look like you can normally see many more rocks.
An excerpt of the top photo

This is an example of a rolling dam that I could not photograph in Yorkville, IL because they had already replaced theirs with a safer design. I took the following picture to grab the big splash by the dam above the picnic table.

It was an interesting exercise in learning how to catch some action with an auto-focus camera. That splash would happen about every second for several seconds. Then it would go away. Then it would start splashing again. I think a log was caught in the roll of the water. I took some short videos to catch the splashing and the sound of the water.

When I looked at the satellite map, it was obvious that this dam is a diversion dam for a mill race. What is labelled the Kankakee River is really a mill headrace. The Kankakee River is the channel on the left. I've decided to use the label "energyHydro" to label old fashion water mills as well as modern hydro-power plants.

When I zoomed in on the downstream part of the headrace, you could see the tailrace to the left.

When I zoomed in even further, you could see the foundations of mill ruins.

1939 Aerial Photo from ILHAP
But things did not look right. For example, why was their no flow under the eastern span of the railroad bridge? So I checked out a 1939 aerial photo. Sure enough, the headrace used to extend north to the railroad bridge and the tailrace used to extend south to the road bridge. During the 1800s, the entire strip of land between the two bridges probably was filled with mills. (Or at least that was the dream of the builder of the dam and channels.) All of those trees on that strip is a reminder that electric motors made watermills obsolete. They have since filled in the parts of the races to get more land and let the water flow through a ruin.

I took some ground level pictures of the water flowing through the ruins. This one was the best.

On the right is the outlet of the tailrace back into the river. I don't know why it created a sand bar on the downstream side.

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