The low head dam is at the upriver end of the diversion channel. Normally, it is high enough to block water from entering the diversion channel. But if the water level raises above 1,191 feet, the water will spill over the dam into the diversion channel. This ensures that high water flows through the diversion channel around Aitkin, while normal river levels continue to follow the river channel past the city of Aitkin.
The State of Minnesota DNR advises canoes and kayaks to avoid this dam unless they are very experienced. Water flows across the channel towards the dam, which creates an unusual suction effect for watercraft, which tries to pull them across the channel and over the dam. The tail side of the dam has very dangerous currents that tend to pull objects under. So, if you make a mistake and go over, you end up in a very bad situation.