Little Falls Dam

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Little Falls Dam
Little Falls Dam.jpg
Located just downriver from the Memorial Bridge in Little Falls
Location Little Falls, Minnesota, Minnesota, USA
Construction began 1887
Opening date 1888
Dam and spillways
Impounds Mississippi River
Height 24 ft (7.3 m)
Length 830 ft

Little Falls Dam is a hydroelectric dam across the Mississippi River in the city of Little Falls, Minnesota, United States.


The Little Falls Mill and Land Company was formed in 1849 to build a dam and a sawmill to supply lumber for buildings at Fort Ripley; but when settlers showed up in the area there were other markets for the lumber. James Green, the owner of the first dam, died in 1850 and the dam, mill and land were sold.

William Sturgis bought the dam and, with Calvin Tuttle and James Fergus, formed the Little Falls Manufacturing Company. The company built a larger dam, sawmill, cabinet shop and bridge and owned about 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) of land. These assets enabled Little Falls to start to boom, but the dam was poorly constructed and was washed away in a flood, as was a second replacement. The company went bankrupt and went out of business, causing a local economic crash.

In 1887, a new group of wealthy people from Louisville, Kentucky formed the Little Falls Water Power Company. A new dam was completed in 1888 as a means to redevelop Little Falls, and this created jobs and attracted immigrants to the town.

In 1920 the dam was rebuilt, raising the water level above the dam an additional four and half feet. This submerged the water power mill at the mouth of the Little Elk River, about one mile upstream. Excavations below the power house increased the total water head to twenty-four feet. The original natural falls had a drop of only about five feet. The impounded water now reaches to the Belle Prairie Rapids, west of the Belle Prairie Church, about 3.5 miles upstream.

In the 1920 rebuild, a larger additional power house was built to house two additional generators, with a third generator being added during the 1980s. Further improvements were made from 2005 to 2010.

Along with the Blanchard Dam ten miles downstream, Little Falls Dam was purchased by Minnesota Power during the 1920s.

In 1978, automation for Blanchard, along with the Sylvan and Pillager dams on the Crow Wing River, were centralized in Little Falls; this allowed a staff of four to do work that had previously required sixteen operators. The operation has since been remotely controlled by Minnesota Power's central dispatchers in Riverton, and the dam is now staffed only by maintenance personnel.

Because generating electricity by water power has little overhead and no fuel costs, this relatively small 4.5 megawatt dam remains economically profitable.

External links[edit]

Brainerd Dam
Locks and dams on the Mississippi River Downstream:
Blanchard Dam

Coordinates: 45°58′30″N 94°22′07″W / 45.97500°N 94.36861°W / 45.97500; -94.36861