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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Blandin Dam
Mississippi River Dam
Grand Rapids, MN

Blandin Dam

• Location: River Mile 1180.5
• County: Itasca
• Structure Type: Concrete Structure
• Structure Width: 215 Feet (Estimated)
• River Elevation (Pool): 1,269 Feet
• River Elevation (Outflow): 1,245 Feet
• Water Fall: 24 Feet
• Date Built: 1901
For much of the 1900s, Grand Rapids and the Blandin Paper Mill were basically one and the same. Much of the economy of the city of 8,000 people was tied directly to the paper mill. The mill was a success because they continually lead the industry in the quality of their coated paper products, the type of paper used by magazines such as Time and Newsweek.

The dam construction began in May of 1901 on the Grand Rapids of the Mississippi River, at the base of a stretch of water falls that dropped 30 feet in just over 3 miles. The mill started operation in 1902. Blandin operated the mill throughout the 1900s, until the mill was sold in 1977. The mill was sold again in 1997 to UPM, a Finnish company with world-wide paper mill holdings. While the mill continues to operate, the paper making process requires far few people to run the mill in this age of automation. In 2001, the mill set a world record by running a coating machine for 24 hours straight at an average speed of 5,656 feet of paper per minute, which is over 64 miles of paper per hour.

The photo above is a view of the downriver side of the dam. Water flow is low on this late summer afternoon. The photo above is a view of the upriver side of the dam. The building on the far side of the river is the Blandin Paper Mill.

Blandin Dam

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