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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Scanlon Dam
Saint Louis River Water Project
Scanlon Dam, MN

Scanlon Dam

• Structure ID: NDI: MN00605
• Location: River Mile 33.1
• Structure Type: Concrete Gravity Structure
• Structure Width: 1,732 Feet Overall (Est), 308 Foot Main Structure (Est)
• River Elevation (Pool): 1,121 Feet
• River Elevation (Outflow): 1,100 Feet
• Water Fall: 21 Feet
• Hydro Power: 1.6-Megawatts
• Date Built: 1922
A mill dam was built in Cloquet in 1899, and the Thomson water project was built in 1907. This left a 5.3 mile segment of the Saint Louis River with a 70 foot drop that was prime for development of hydro power. The city of Scanlon felt that having a city-owned source of hydro power would give them a competitive edge. An ideal spot was located on a rapids just a mile and a half south of the Cloquet dam.

At that spot, the river divided into two channels and fell over a small rapids. A set of gates and a power house was installed on the west channel, and a set of gates and an overflow spillway were installed on the east channel. Two additional plug dams were installed to block natural channels in the rock between the two main dam segments. The east channel dam is visible from the CSAH-61 bridge, while the west channel dam is visible from a trail that runs north along the river from the whitewater kayak park in Scanlon.

The resulting powerplant is able to generate 1.6-megawatts of power on an ongoing basis. Since the dam does not have a large storage pool, it operates as a run-of-the-river plant. That is, all water that flows downriver passes through the dam. If there is not enough water flowing, there is no reservoir to draw from. The dam structure is reinforced concrete. It sits on pilings driven into the rock in the rapids. The dam depends on its weight to keep it anchored in place.

Shortly after the dam was built, control was passed onto Minnesota Power, who operates the dam to this day under the Allete family of companies.

The photo above is looking northeast from the trail that runs along the west side of the river north of the Whitewater Kayak Park in Scanlon. This is the west channel dam. There is a control structure on the east channel on the other side of the rock formation at the right side of this photograph.


Scanlon Dam
The photo above is a closer view of the west side of the west channel control structure, while the photo below is the east side of the west channel control structure. The water flow is relatively high for an autumn day. This is due to an early snow followed by a very warm spell, which caused the snow to melt very quickly. The Saint Louis River ran very high for about a week. This is the tail end of that runoff.

Scanlon Dam
Scanlon Dam
The photo above is looking east across the river just behind the Scanlon Dam. The photo below is the power substation located west of the dam. While this substation is very small, it does handle enough electricity to power 1,500 homes.

Scanlon Dam
Scanlon Dam
The photo above is the upstream side of the power house. There is a thin skin of ice on the water due to low overnight temperatures. Some of that ice has piled up against the power house foundation. The photo below is the back side of the control gates on the east side of the power house.

Scanlon Dam
Scanlon Dam
These two photos are views of the dam pool on the upstream side of the structure. The east channel control gates are visible in the distance on the photo above. The two channels are separated by a ridge of rock that forms an island between the two river channels.

Scanlon Dam
Scanlon Dam
The photo above is a summer view of the Scanlon Dam as seen from the trail that runs along the west side of the river. The photo below is the east channel control dam as seen from the Highway 61 bridge located just downriver from the structure.

Scanlon Dam

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Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2012, all rights reserved.
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