Current Weather Conditions
John A. Weeks III
Tuesday, August 9, 2022, 6:54:39 AM CDT
Home Photo Tours Rail Fan 12 Easy Steps
Aviation Spacecraft Highways & Bridges About The Author
Google Search
Maps   Groups   Images   Search
  • 12 Easy Steps
  • Aviation
  • Spacecraft
  • Highways & Bridges
    » Bridge Photography
      - MSP River Bridges
      - C & D Canal
      - Illinois River
      - Minnehaha Creek
      - Minnesota River
      - Mississippi River
      - Missouri River
      - St. Croix River
      - St. Louis River
        › St. Louis Headwaters
        › Upper St. Louis River
        › Forbes - US-53 Area
        › Up Mid St. Louis River
        › Lw Mid St. Louis River
        › Fond du Lac Reservatn
        › Cloquet - Scanlon
          · Knife Falls Boom Site
          · Upper Dunlap Is (Old)
          · Upper Dunlap Is Br
          · Cloquet Bridge Ruins
          · Main Street Br (Old)
          · Main Street Bridge
          · MN-33 Br (N Span)
          · MN-33 Br (S Span)
          · Lower Dunlap Is Br
          · Knife Falls Dam
          · Cloquet Dam
          · Lk Superior Pipeline
          · Scanlon Dam
          · CSAH-61 Bridge
          · I-35 Bridges
        › Jay Cooke State Park
        › Twin Ports Harbor
      - Wisconsin River
      - Best Miss River Photos
      - Cable Stayed Bridges
      - McGilvray Road Bridges
      - I-35W Bridge Disaster
      - Miscellaneous Bridges
      - Madison County Bridges
      - Hist Br Weekend 2013
    » Road Geek Topics
  • Photo Tours
  • Rail Fan
  • About The Author
Site Search By JRank
Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Knife Falls Boom Site
Saint Louis River Structure Ruins
Cloquet, MN

Knife Falls Boom Site

• Structure ID: N/A
• Location: River Mile 37.3
• River Elevation: 1,179 Feet
• Structure Type: Manmade Islands Built From Rock Cribs
• Navigation Channel Width: Non-Navigable
• Date Built: 1870s (Estimated)
This structure is the remains of a log boom site. I believe that this site was operated by the Knife Falls Boom Company, but I have not yet confirmed that. The city of Cloquet was known as Knife Falls before it was renamed Cloquet.

A log boom is a place where lumberman would sort logs that were floated down the river. They would group logs by the logging crews that owned them, and sent them in groups down to the appropriate mill. This was done by placing chains across the river to catch the logs as they floated down stream. This was a very elaborate boom site. It features a series of man-made islands, which were called jam piers. This created a series of slots or channels where logs could be grouped and sorted.

The remains consist of three man-made islands on the east side of the river, and a fourth smaller man-made island on the west side of a long and narrow natural island. The three man-made islands shown in these photos are about 30 feet wide by 50 feet long. They were built by sinking wooden cribs in the river, and then filling the cribs with rock. There are also a number of locations where pilings were sunk into the riverbed. These pilings were apparently cut off at the waterline when the site was abandoned.

The lumber boom in the great Northwoods of Wisconsin and Minnesota got started in the late 1860s after the Civil War was over. The boom lasted through the 1920s. As a result, I suspect that this log boom was built in the 1870s, possibly 1879, and it was abandoned by the 1920s. Logs were hauled in by railroad in the latter part of the logging rush, especially after dams started to appear on the lower Saint Louis River.

The operators of a log boom charged a fee for each board foot of log that passed through the boom. This was often a very lucrative business. Loggers often saw this as a de facto river tax. As a result, the existence of boom sites and their water rights was a hotly contested issue that was almost continuously being litigated in the courts.

This log boom was the starting point of a major disaster. In early June of 1888, heavy rains caused the Saint Louis River to rise to its highest level in recorded history. On June 14, the Knife Falls Boom failed. The failure released 60-million board feet of logs. Within minutes, the surge of logs passed through Cloquet, then known as Knife Falls, and caused the failure of a second log boom at Posey Island, now known as Dunlap Island. This smaller boom held 20-million board feet of logs. The combined flow of logs destroyed dams, bridges, and mills along the river. It took two hours for the surge of logs to flow over the head of the cascades at Thomson. Many of the logs were hung up along the cascades, but vast numbers made it all the way to the harbor. Some logs even floated out into Lake Superior. This was a monumental disaster that left a both a huge mess to clean up and a huge hole in the local economy. Some of the logs were hauled back up to Cloquet by train, but was impractical to carry all the logs back up the hill. As a result, several mills were built in Duluth to process these logs.

The photo above is looking northwest across the Saint Louis River at the Knife Falls Boom Site. Two of the four man-made islands are visible. There is another man-made island off to the right of the photo, and a fourth located behind the large natural island in the background.

Knife Falls Boom Site
The photo photo above is the first view of the man-made islands when walking north on the primitive trail located along the east bank of the Saint Louis River. Note the pilings visible in the foreground. The photo below is looking west across the river along the downstream south edge of the islands. The first and second islands are visible, but the third is obscured.

Knife Falls Boom Site
Knife Falls Boom Site
The photo above is looking directly west towards the easternmost of the man-made islands. The photo below is looking west along the north side of the three man-made islands on the east river channel. It appears from these views that there are remains of pilings on the top of the islands.

Knife Falls Boom Site
Knife Falls Boom Site
The photo above is looking west across the river from just upstream of the series of man-made islands. Note the pilings in the river on the right edge of the photo. The photo below is looking across the river just downstream of the island. Another group of pilings are visible.

Knife Falls Boom Site
Knife Falls Boom Site
The photo above is a canoe trail campsite located on the east shore of the Saint Louis River downstream of the boom site. Note that there are a group of pilings right at the edge of the water. The photo below is the road leading into the boom site from the east. This likely was a railroad track when the boom site was in operation.

Knife Falls Boom Site

Made With Macintosh
Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2016, all rights reserved.
For further information, contact: