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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Lac Qui Parle Dam
Minnesota River Dam
Churchill, MN

Lac Qui Parle Dam

• Location: River Mile 284.7.
• Structure Type: Concrete w/Steel Gates.
• Structure Width: 4,100 Feet Overall, 239 Foot Long Spillway.
• River Elevation (Pool): 931 Feet.
• River Elevation (Outflow): 922 Feet.
• Water Fall: 9 Feet.
• Date Built: Built 1939, Reconstructed 1996.
The Lac Qui Parle Dam is one of three dams on the upper Minnesota River built as part of a flood control project. The other two are the Marsh Lake Dam and the Highway 75 Dam, both located upriver from this location. The Works Progress Administration, a depression era jobs program, started building this dam in 1936 to 1939. The US Army Corps of Engineers worked with the State of Minnesota starting in 1941 to upgrade the project, and the Corps took over full control in 1950. In 1996, the dam was rebuilt and controllers were installed to operate the gates mechanically.

The dam is a total of 4,100 feet wide. Most of this distance is in the form of an earthen embankment. The main spillway structure is 239 feet long, and it consists of 8 bays that are 12 feet wide and 4 gates that are 17 feet wide. The structure is 32 feet tall, but the typical water fall is only 9 feet.

The pool behind the dam is known as Lac Qui Parle. It is reported to be some of the best walleye fishing in the western part of Minnesota. The lake varies from 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile wide, and extends 17 miles upstream. The maximum depth is 13 feet, and it covers 10 square miles. In addition to the US Army Corps of Engineers day use area and campgrounds at the dam site, there are a number of other public access areas to the lake, including a state park.

The photo above is looking north towards the Lac Qui Parle Dam control structure as seen from the east riverbank.

Lac Qui Parle Dam
The photo above is the official project sign. The photo below is a view of the dam taken from downriver along the edge of the outflow channel. Due to spring run-off, the outflow channel is higher, faster, and more turbulent than normal.

Lac Qui Parle Dam
Lac Qui Parle Dam
The photo above is a view from the base of the dam. The photo below is a view of the front of the top of the dam. People often fish from the top of the dam hoping to catch fish that are dazed by the churning water.

Lac Qui Parle Dam
Lac Qui Parle Dam
The photo above is a view of the back of the top of the dam. The metal poles are attached to the dam gates, and the mechanisms on top of the dam raise and lower the gates based on electrical control signals. The photo below is the back of the dam.

Lac Qui Parle Dam
Lac Qui Parle Dam
The photo above is looking upstream towards the Lac Qui Parle lake. While the lake is quite wide in places, the first half-mile behind the dam is little more than a deep river channel. The photo below is looking downstream along the outflow channel. The channel is heavily rip-rapped (rocks added to the shore) to prevent erosion of the river banks.

Lac Qui Parle Dam
Lac Qui Parle Dam
The photo above is a view of the dam from the west side of the river. The photo below is a close-up of the water flowing through the dam structure.

Lac Qui Parle Dam

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