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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Low Head Dam
Minnehaha Creek Dam
Minneapolis, MN

Low Head Dam

• Structure ID: N/A.
• Location: River Mile 0.15.
• Structure Type: Dam (Non-Movable).
• Construction: Reinforced Concrete.
• Width: 86 Feet (Estimated).
• River Elevation (Pool): 804 Feet.
• River Elevation (Outflow): 799 Feet.
• Water Fall: 5 Feet.
• Date Built: Rebuilt 1998 or 1999 (Estimated).
The Low Head Dam is located on the west side of Hiawatha Avenue, highway MN-55, and the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit Line. A low head dam is typically less than 15 feet tall. They typically have no control gates. They were commonly created decades ago to create pools of water that were deeper and slow moving. It was thought to be a good idea at the time. Today, low head dams are generally seen as undesirable. They create stagnant water pools and they block the movement of fish. In addition, they are extremely dangerous due to a back current at the surface that sucks boats and swimmers under the water.

Like the typical low head dam, I have no idea why this dam was built. I suspect that a dam was built at this location many years ago, perhaps in the 1920s when the Minnehaha Parkway was developed and the creek was dredged. Aerial photos from 1991 show a different dam configuration than what exists today. The construction project in the late 1990s and 2000 that resulted in a much wider footprint for Hiawatha Avenue and the addition of the LRT railroad tracks like required the low head dam to be rebuilt. As a result, I would guess that the current structure dates to the year 1998 or 1999. I also have not figured out what the large stone blocks are below the falls. They don't appear to be bridge remains. They might have been part of an old dam structure.

The photo above is a view of the dam looking to the south from the roof over the tunnel that carries Hiawatha Avenue, highway MN-55, and the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit Line.

Low Head Dam
These two photos are looking upstream to the west towards the dam falls. The vantage point is close enough to the falls that I was not able to cover the entire scene in one wide angle view. As a result, I present two slightly different views. The photo above shows the entire width of the falls, while the photo below shows more of the downstream channel.

Low Head Dam
Low Head Dam
The photo above is looking downstream towards the dam. The MN-55 and LRT bridge over the creek is just below the falls. The photo below is looking south across the creek channel at the top of the falls.

Low Head Dam
Low Head Dam
The photo above is another view looking south from the base of the falls next to the MN-55 and LRT bridge. The photo below is a view from the roof of the tunnel directly above the LRT railroad tracks. The falls is really hidden from view, and few people likely know that it even exists so close to such a busy highway and rail line.

Low Head Dam

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