Sunday, February 21, 2021

Little Falls Dam on Mississippi River in Little Falss, MN

(John A. Weeks III; Satellite)

Street View

The building on the left below is the new powerhouse and the lighter red one is the original powerhouse. In the foreground is part of an older dam. James Green built the first dam in 1849 as a wing dam on the east side to power a sawmill to help build what is now Camp Ripley. In 1858 a dam was built all the way across the east channel to Mill Island. Unfortunately, they spread sand and gravel on the river bottom to provide a nice level surface on which to build. The next two summers, floods washed out the dam. A porous foundation no doubt facilitated the damage. A third dam was built in 1887-88. This dam went across both channels and supported multiple industries. The third dam was made of wood. Work started on today's concrete dam in 1914, and it was completed, along with the original powerhouse, in 1921. [MorrisonCountyHistory]
Street View

More evidence that 2019 was a very wet year in a lot of America.
Shane Rooney, Apr 2019
[Note the powerhouse on the left. The three sluice gates on the right are wide open. In most photos the tainter gates may be open, but the sluice gates are closed and the fixed spillway is dry. In fact, water goes over the spillway before they open the sluice gates.]

John Weeks also caught a heavy flow after a spring thaw.
John Weeks

The Little Falls dam was converted to hydropower in the 1890s. The Little Falls power company ran a promotion where they would wire a house for free if the customer signed up for at least 6 electric lights. The dam currently produces 4.5-megawatts of power. Generators 1, 2, and 3 are in the newer powerhouse and were installed in 1924. Generators 5 and 6 are in the older powerhouse, and date back to 1906. Unit 4 was put into operation in 1979. Electric power generated from this dam cost about 7 cents per kilowatt/hour back in the early 1900s. The price is exactly the same over 100 years later.
[John Weeks]
A plaque
[The plaque indicates that Minnesota Power not only owns 11 dams but over 400 miles of reservoir shorelines. The dams are run-of-river, so the reservoir level should remain fairly constant.]
Photo via Placeography
[This reference seems to be the source for the other references.]

Phyllis Gardner Bernard posted
River still trickling through in January

I captured the satellite image because it is pretty obvious that it was taken during 2019.

While I was looking at the satellite image, I noticed that there used to be a headrace for a mill along the west side of this excerpt. In fact, John Weeks has a post about the mill ruins.

Mary Isaacson posted, Jul 2018
Little Falls dam
John F. Sullivan: Looks like it was when I descended this reach in a June 2012 canoe trip. The flow was about 25,000 cfs then. It was difficult get off the bank below the dam into the main channel due to high velocity. Current flows about about 15,000 cubic feet per second.
Jim Wright posted, Apr 2020
I used to live next door to this dam, as a teenager in Little Falls, MN. Now it's a city park. The Mississippi roars when the ice goes out. Had to sandbag our home a couple of times.

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