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

Knife Falls Dam

• Structure ID: NDI: MN00606
• Location: River Mile 35.5
• Structure Type: Concrete Gravity Structure
• Structure Width: 1,905 Feet Overall (Estimated)
• River Elevation (Pool): 1,179 Feet
• River Elevation (Outflow): 1,161 Feet
• Water Fall: 18 Feet
• Hydro Power: 2.4-Megawatts
• Date Built: 1921
The Knife Falls Dam on the north side of Cloquet was developed at the same time as the Scanlon Dam a few miles downstream. Like the Scanlon Dam, this is considered to be a small hydro project with an electrical output of 2.4-megawatts. The Knife Falls Dam is also owned and operated by Minnesota Power.

The dam is located at the site of a natural rapids in the river. River rapids are common in this area where the Saint Louis River plunges from an elevation of 1,200 feet on top of the bluffs down to Lake Superior at an elevation of 602 feet. The Saint Louis River has two channels in this location. The main dam and powerhouse is on the south channel of the river. It consists of a 1,644 foot wide reinforced concrete and steel structure. While the dam is sitting on piles driven into the rock at the rapids, the structure depends on its weight to hold it in place. The north channel is much narrower and requires a very short dam. There are several smaller dams blocking channels through the rocks between the two main river channels.

The downstream side of the dam is blocked off by the Sappi Paper Mill, which is the former Potlatch Mill. A road runs along the north side of the river. It is blocked off by a gate, but parking is allowed along this road and you can walk in to the dam site. This is a popular fishing location. The Knife Falls Dam area is reported to be a great location for catching Northern Pike and Smallmouth Bass.

The photo above is the upriver side of the dam control structure across the south channel of the Saint Louis River. Access to the downriver side of the dam is on Sappi property and is not open to the public. The photo below is the dam power house and control gates, also seen from the south side of the river.


Knife Falls Dam
Knife Falls Dam
My first attempt to visit the dam structures on the north side of the river was by attempting to walk down the hill from Jackson Street. That path did not work out, but it did offer a nice view of the river. The photo below is the power substation on the north side of the river. Walking in on the access road worked much better.

Knife Falls Dam
Knife Falls Dam
The photo above is the upstream side of the control dam over the north river channel. This photo is looking directly into the bright morning sun. The reflections are very bright even when looking at the photo on a computer screen. The photo below is looking south towards the north channel dam.

Knife Falls Dam
Knife Falls Dam
The photo above is the upriver pool side of the north channel dam as seen from the north side of the river. The photo below is looking upstream from this same location. The orange markers in the water warn boaters of the dam.

Knife Falls Dam
Knife Falls Dam
The photo above is looking upstream from a location below the Knife Falls Dam from the north side of the river. The rocks are the visible portion of a now submerged rapids located between the north and south channel dams. There are several small dams located in the trees blocking off small channels between the rocks. The photo below is a view of the downriver side of the south channel dam and power house. The vantage point is the access road leading to the Cloquet Dam on the north side of the Saint Louis River.

Knife Falls Dam
Knife Falls Dam
These two photos are additional views of the downstream side of the south channel dam and power house, from the same vantage point as the photo above. I unfortunately did not have a telephone lens with me on this trek. That leaves something for me to do the next time I pass through this area.

Knife Falls Dam

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