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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Winnibigoshish Dam
Mississippi River Dam
Near Deer River, MN

Winnibigoshish Dam

• Location: River Mile 1248
• County: Cass, Itasca
• Structure Type: Concrete Structure
• Structure Width: 169 Foot Main Structure
• River Elevation (Pool): 1,297 Feet
• River Elevation (Outflow): 1,284 Feet
• Water Fall: 13 Feet
• Date Built: 1899.
The original dam at this location was a wooden dam started in 1881 and finished in 1884. It was replaced with a concrete dam in 1899-1900. A 12-foot log sluice and a 5-foot fish ladder was added in 1912. These additions are no longer in use. The bridge deck was added in 1909, and rebuilt in 1990.

This was the first major reservoir built on the Mississippi River. The US Army Corps of Engineers report that the dam and reservoir were built to be a resource that would benefit the entire nation. Water released from northern reservoirs would help make the shipping season more predictable and safer. Today, the dam is used to keep the lake at a constant level of 1,297 feet above sea level. The shipping lanes are now managed by downstream locks and dams, leaving the lake available for recreational purposes.

The lake is 67,000 acres, with about 140 miles of shoreline. Unlike lakes in the Brainerd Lakes area, Winnibigoshish remains mostly undeveloped. As the fifth largest lake in Minnesota, it is considered to be the crown jewel for fishing, and some of the best walleye fishing in the world. One key to the excellent fish habitat is that this lake is located on a major river, which keeps the lake flushed clean.

The photo above is the downriver face of the dam as seen from the north river bank. The photo below is a view of water flowing out of the dam as seen from the north side of the structure.


Winnibigoshish Dam
Winnibigoshish Dam
The photo above is a view of water exiting the dam as seen from a vantage point on the south side of the river. The photo below is a view of the river channel looking downriver. The river channel has been modified to improve water flow.

Winnibigoshish Dam
Winnibigoshish Dam
The photo above is looking south at the upriver side of the dam. The vertical metal poles are part of a mechanical system to allow the gates to be opened or closed by remote control. The photo below is another view of the downriver side of the dam.

Winnibigoshish Dam
Winnibigoshish Dam
The photo above is a view looking north down the length of the bridge deck built on top of the dam structure. The photo below is looking north at the upriver side of the dam.

Winnibigoshish Dam

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