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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Saint Croix Falls Dam
Saint Croix River Dam
Saint Croix Falls, WI

Saint Croix Falls Dam

• Location: River Mile 53.6.
• Structure Type: Concrete Gravity.
• Structure Width: 675 Foot Dam, 291 Foot Powerplant, 785 Foot Dike.
• River Elevation (Pool): 755 Feet.
• River Elevation (Outflow): 696 Feet.
• Water Fall: 59 Feet.
• Date Built: 1907.
Native American activity goes back 5,000 years in this area. European settlers moved into the area in the early 1800s. Many were attracted by the potential mechanical power of the falls, which had a natural fall of 55 feet. But the locals and various logging interests fought over rights to the falls for so many years that Saint Croix Falls ended up getting into the game late. Once the first sawmill opened, it was run so poorly that it only cut a tiny percentage of the logs that were transported downriver. While the local sawmill was unable to ramp up in production, logs bypassed the cities to go down river to sawmills as far south as Saint Louis.

Once the logging era was nearly played out, Northern States Power gained rights to the falls. They constructed the concrete arched dam that we see today. It has a 675 foot long arched dam 59 feet tall, one wide gate that serves both as a log sluice and overflow gate, a power plant that is 291 feet wide, and a secondary dike on the Minnesota side that is 785 feet long. The dam went on-line in 1907. It produces 25-megawatts of electrical power. Funds from selling the power is used to offset local property taxes, resulting in Saint Croix Falls having lower total taxation than a typical Wisconsin resident would expect to pay.

To help build the dam, NSP also purchased the Nevers Dam 11 miles upstream. The Nevers Dam was used to hold back water at critical points in the project to allow construction to move forward more quickly. After the new hydro dam went on-line, the Nevers Dam was used to smooth out the flow of water arriving at Saint Croix Falls allowing the power dam to maximize its output. The Nevers Dam became a maintenance problem, and was later ordered to be kept open certain times of the year. With the Nevers Dam no longer able to store any seasonal run-off water, it became less useful to NSP. As a result, shortly after the Nevers Dam was damaged in the spring run-off in 1954, NSP choose to remove Nevers Dam the following year.

As the turn of the century approached, environmentalists started calling for the Saint Croix Falls Dam to be removed. They state that the uneven river flow down stream hurts the fish population and it helps the growth of invasive Zebra Mussels. While it is unlikely that the dam will be removed, it is fun to think how spectacular the restored waterfalls would be, and what its potential positive impact on tourism might be.

The photo at the top of the page is a view of the back side of the horseshoe shaped main dam structure. The photo below is a view of the dam looking north upriver from the US-8 highway bridge at Taylors Falls. The dam is easily visible using a telephoto lens.


Saint Croix Falls Dam
Saint Croix Falls Dam
These two photos are views of the powerhouse. The photo above is the side of the powerhouse and top of the electrical sub-station on the east side of the river. The photo below is a view of the upriver side of the powerhouse as seen from the overlook at the dam site.

Saint Croix Falls Dam
Saint Croix Falls Dam
The photo above is the channel leading to the powerhouse intake as seen from the overlook on the east side of the Saint Croix River. The photo below is a view looking upriver from the overlook.

Saint Croix Falls Dam
Saint Croix Falls Dam
These two photos are views of the dam from the upriver side of the structure. The photo above is the log sluice gate. The photo below is the intake of the powerhouse.

Saint Croix Falls Dam
Saint Croix Falls Dam
The photo above is looking southeast from an overlook on the Minnesota side of the river towards a section of dam structure on the west side of the river valley. The photo below is the marker at the overlook located on the Wisconsin side of the river.

Saint Croix Falls Dam
Saint Croix Falls Dam
These two photos, and the 12 that follow, are updated photos from 2011 (though I didn't post them until 2015). The photo above is a close view of the dam and the single sluice gate as seen from the Wisconsin side of the river. The photo below is a view from the same location, but an overview shot showing the water backed up behind the dam structure.

Saint Croix Falls Dam
Saint Croix Falls Dam
These two photos are views of the Saint Croix River Visitor Center, located on the Wisconsin side of the river in St. Croix Falls. It has an excellent view of the dam. They show a movie that gives an overview of the river and how the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act came to be, and its connection to the Saint Croix River.

Saint Croix Falls Dam
Saint Croix Falls Dam
The photo above is a sculpture named ‘River Spirit’ located at the visitor center, while the photo below is the plaque that describes the artwork.

Saint Croix Falls Dam
Saint Croix Falls Dam
The photo above is the sign at the visitor center. The photo below is a Wisconsin state historical marker discussing Gaylord Nelson. Nelson, who was born in the area, was the Governor of Wisconsin as well as a Senator, and is remembered as the founder of Earth Day.

Saint Croix Falls Dam
Saint Croix Falls Dam
The photo above is a sign describing the dam and power plant that was funded by a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. The photo below is the upriver side of the power plant. This building is several stories tall, but only the upper story is visible above the top of the dam.

Saint Croix Falls Dam
Saint Croix Falls Dam
The photo above is the sluice gate in the dam as seen from the upriver side. The photo below is a detail view of some of the equipment in the power substation located near the power plant.

Saint Croix Falls Dam
Saint Croix Falls Dam
The photo above is the power substation located near the power plant, while the photo below is a view of the power plant (and the top of the substation) from a different angle.

Saint Croix Falls Dam

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Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2016, all rights reserved.
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