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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Saint Cloud Dam
Mississippi River Dam
Saint Cloud, MN

St Cloud Dam

• Location: River Mile 926.4
• Counties: Sherburne And Stearns
• Structure Type: Concrete Structure
• Structure Width: 702 Feet (Estimated)
• River Elevation (Pool): 981 Feet
• River Elevation (Outflow): 958 Feet
• Water Fall: 23.3 Feet
• Date Built: 1970
The Saint Cloud Dam, also called the Tenth Street Dam, is located adjacent to the Saint Cloud State University campus. The dam was originally built for flood control. Currently, the dam operates as a real life classroom for hydrology students. The power plant features two 4.5-megawatt generators. The power is fed into the Xcel Energy power grid. The hydropower generators run in the run-of-river mode, which means that all water that flows into the dam each day has to pass over the dam or through the powerplant. There is no storage space for water behind the dam.

The dam has two interesting features. First, it features lift-up gates that can control the water level by up to three feet. Second, the dam has grinders (also called dragon teeth) at the bottom of the falls to grind up debris and calm down the water. These grinders are a series of tooth-shaped concrete blocks that stick up about a foot and a half from the river bed. You can see the action of the grinders in the upper photo, and see the grinders themselves in the bottom photo. They are located under the section of white water at the base of the falls. At the same time, notice how calm the water is only a few dozen feet downstream.

The Saint Cloud Dam was rebuilt in 1970. A cofferdam was built just upstream to keep the construction site dry. That cofferdam failed on October 31, 1970, releasing the entire dam pool downstream, causing extensive damage.

The photo above is a view of the dam site as seen from the west side of the river. The river is about 800 feet wide at this location. The dam consists of 220 feet of earthen embankment, a 550 foot wide spillway, and approximately 130 feet of structure on the west end of the dam supporting the powerplant, intakes, and tailrace.

St Cloud Dam
The photo above is a view of the dam from upstream of the structure looking to the south. The powerplant is located on the near side of the river. The photo below is a view looking upstream from the dam powerplant. The University Bridge crosses the Mississippi River just upstream from the Saint Cloud Dam.

St Cloud Dam
St Cloud Dam
These two photos are views of the dam spillway structure as seen from the east bank of the Mississippi River. The power plant is located on the far end of the dam. The campus of Saint Cloud State University is located on the west bank of the river.

St Cloud Dam
St Cloud Dam
The photo above shows just a trickle of water flowing over the dam during a late summer afternoon. In contrast, the photo below shows a large volume of water spilling over the dam structure during the spring run-off season.

St Cloud Dam
St Cloud Dam
These two photos demonstrate the action of the grinders at the base of the waterfall. The photo above shows the high spring run-off water flowing over the dam and hitting the grinders. The photo below is a close view of this action. Columns of water a dozen feet tall bubble up from the surface as the fast moving water hits the concrete grinders.

St Cloud Dam

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