Little Falls Dam
Little Falls Dam is a hydroelectric dam across the Mississippi River in the city of Little Falls, Minnesota, United States.

History
The Little Falls Mill and Land Company was formed in 1849 to build a dam and a sawmill to supply lumber for buildings at Fort Ripley; but when settlers showed up in the area there were other markets for the lumber. James Green the owner of the first dam died in 1850 and everything the dam the mill and the land was sold. The second dam was built by Little Falls Manufacturing Company. William Sturgis bought the old dam and got together with Calvin Tuttle and James Fergus and formed the Little Falls Manufacturing Company. The purpose of the dam and the company was making lumber, grinding grain, cutting logs, selling goods, and making a town. The company built a larger dam, sawmill, a large two and a half story cabinet shop, and a bridge. The company owned about 2,000 acres (8.1 km 2) of land and hired S. M. Putman for survey the land and divide it into lots. The owners sold stock of the company and also began to sell lots to people who wanted to start businesses or come to this new town to live. Little Falls started to boom thanks to the dam and the available land but the dam being of poor construction was washed away in a flood. The company rebuilt the dam but it was washed out again. Farmers didn't have money to spend because the grasshoppers had eaten their crops. This was a general depression through the entire country. The lots stopped selling and the company went broke and went out of business. A new group of very wealthy people from Louisville, Kentucky decided they wanted to build a new dam in Little Falls. A new dam would restart the growth of Little Falls after the crashing of its economy from the loss of the Little Falls Manufacturing Company. When the dam was built the town started growing again, immigrants who heard of the jobs moved into Little Falls and the rest of Morrison County.In 1887 the Little Falls Water Power Company was formed and the dam was finished in 1888. In 1920 the dam was rebuilt, raising the water level above the dam an additional four and half feet. This submerged the water power mill at the mouth of the Little Elk River, about one mile upstream. Excavations below the power house increased the total water head to twenty-four feet. The original natural falls had a drop of only about five feet. The impounded water now reaches to the Belle Prairie Rapids, west of the Belle Prairie Church, about 3 1/2 miles upstream. In the 1920 rebuild, a larger additional power house was built of red brick, housing two additional generators, power line switch gear and an operator's room. A third generator was added in the spare turbine pit during the 1980's. The concrete of the eastern waste gates has been rebuilt during 2005 to 2010, including replacement of the original wooden spillway top with an inflatable rubber bladder. This operates with an air pressure of 3 psi, and allows remote control of spillway flow. Removal of the previous wooden spillway was a high risk operation since the winter ice had to be cut away before the boards could be pulled. Both the Little Falls dam and Blanchard dam, ten miles downstream, were purchased from their original owners by Minnesota Power during the 1920's. In 1978 automation for Blanchard and the Sylvan and Pillager dams on the Crow Wing River were centralized in Little Falls, allowing an operator staff of four to do the work that had required sixteen operators. The Little Falls operation has since been remotely controlled to the Minnesota Power's central dispatchers in Riverton, and the dam is now staffed only by maintenance personnel. High voltage switch gear formerly located on top of the newer power house was removed during the 1990's and relocated to an on-shore switchyard for easier maintenance, and for more modern protection and control equipment. The two horizontal shaft generators in the older yellow brick power house are still in use. The original vertical shaft generator in the older power house was removed in the 1920 rebuilding, but the water pipe for the turbine is still in place and the turbine shaft served for decades as an anchor for the machinist's vice in the maintenance shop. About 2008 the turbines for the horizontal generators were replaced with higher efficiency modern designs. The generator capacity remains the same, but the water saved can be used by the other generators. Because generating electricity by water power has little overhead and no fuel costs, this dam which is quite small (four and a half megawatts) by 21st century power standards, is still economically profitable.

Upstream: Brainerd Dam Locks and dams on the Mississippi River Downstream: Blanchard Dam