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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Lower Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam
Mississippi River Lock & Dam
Minneapolis, MN

Lower Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam

• Structure: Lower Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam.
• Location: River Mile 853.3.
• Dam Width: 988 Feet Overall, 275 Foot Longest Structure.
• River Elevation (Pool): 749 Feet.
• River Elevation (Outflow): 725 Feet.
• Water Fall: 24 Feet.
• Annual Lock Traffic: 2,559 Vessels, 1,158,000 Tons (2005).
• Date Opened: September 1956.
Lower Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam is a lessor known structure in the Twin Cities area. The structure itself is closed to the public, so there is no observation deck, and even the entry road is posted. The river makes a sweeping turn, so you cannot see the dam by looking up- river. Hills on both sides of the river hide the structure. The best view is from I-35W, but that is a very busy highway, and it is not possible to stop to take a photograph.

Despite not being well known, the dam is still a fairly large structure. It has a 24-foot head, which means that the water behind the dam is 24 feet higher in elevation than water in front of the dam. While there is no hydro-power at this dam today, we can expect to see it in the future. Studies are underway to install a linear turbine in the gate next to the boat lock. The 275 foot long main dam structure features 4 Tainter gates. The lock is 56 feet wide by 400 feet long, which is about two-thirds the size of a typical Mississippi River lock. The original dam at this location was built in 1897 as a hydropower dam. That structure was removed in 1959. The current dam was built as part of the lock & dam project.

Update—Lock & Dam #1, as well as both the Upper and Lower Saint Anthony Falls Locks & Dams, were closed twice during 2012 due to high water flows following unusually large rainfalls in central Minnesota. The first closing was to recreational users on May 28 and May 30 for commercial users. The locks were reopened on June 8. They were closed again on June 22 for recreational use and June 24 for commercial use, then reopened on June 28. The US Army Corps of Engineers closes the locks to recreational users when the flow hits 30,000 cubic feet per second, and closes to commercial traffic at 40,000 cubic feet per second.

The photo above is taken from the east side river flats. This area is open to people who have business at the University of Minnesota Tandem Accelerator Lab. This is the only legal spot I could find to take a photo of the downstream side of the Lock & Dam.

The photo below is another view of the downstream side of the Lower Falls structure. It was taken from the 10th Avenue Bridge. This photo is only possible with the collapse of the I-35W bridge, which would normally block the view of the lock & dam. Note the nice view of the Stone Arch Bridge and the 3rd Avenue Bridge in the background. The lock and this section of the Mississippi River was closed from August 1, 2007 to October 5, 2007 following the I-35W bridge disaster.

Lower Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam
Lower Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam
The photo above is a view of the Lower Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam after the new I-35W bridge was completed. This photo was taken from the Northern Pacific Bridge #9 due to the observation area on the 10th Avenue Bridge having been closed after the new I-35W bridge was completed.

The photo below is the upstream side of the dam from the west side of the river. The entrance to the locks is in the center right side of the photo, while the spillway is on the left side. This photo is taken from the parking lot at the Mill Ruins Park. Notice the green metal structure of the old I-35W bridge in the background spanning from the edge of photo across to the trees on the right.

Lower Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam
Lower Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam
The photo above is another view from upstream of the dam structure. This photo was taken from the Stone Arch Bridge. The photo below was taken from the parking lot at the Tandem Accelerator Lab. The downtown skyline is visible in the background.

Lower Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam
Lower Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam
The photo above shows a patch of empty land between the U of M Steam Plant and the Lock & Dam spillway. This is the location of the former Xcel Energy hydro power station. The power plant suffered scour (being undercut by water) leading to the building collapsing. It was removed in 1988 and the area filled in. There are proposals for future use of this land. The most popular seems to be a whitewater rapids park.

The photo below is a view of the dam on an icy February morning. It was so cold that water leaking through cracks at the edges of the gates froze in mid-stream.

Lower Saint Anthony Falls Lock & Dam

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