There were a number of privately owned dams built in the Little Falls
area to serve the timber industry. The current dam was built in 1887
and went into operation in 1888. It supplied mechanical power to a
flour mill via a series of belts and pulleys. Interestingly, a previous
dam at this location also served as a bridge over the Mississippi River
for 18 months prior to that dam being destroyed by a flood in 1859.
The Little Falls dam was converted to hydropower in the 1890s. The
Little Falls power company ran a promotion where they would wire a
house for free if the customer signed up for at least 6 electric
lights. The dam currently produces 4.5-megawatts of power. Generators
1, 2, and 3 are in the newer powerhouse and were installed in 1924.
Generators 5 and 6 are in the older powerhouse, and date back to 1906.
Unit 4 was put into operation in 1979. Electric power generated from
this dam cost about 7 cents per kilowatt/hour back in the early 1900s.
The price is exactly the same over 100 years later.
The Little Falls dam operates as a run-of-the-river dam. That is, each
drop of water that flows into the dam area has to pass through the power
house or go over the dam each day. There is no storage reservoir behind
The photo above is a view of the face of the newer eastern section of
the dam structure. Notice that a suspension pedestrian bridge spans across
the main spillway. This is one of the few suspension bridges that exist
The photo above is a view of the control gates on the east side of the dam.
The photo below is the newer spillway structure.
The photo above is the mid-river gates. An older section of the dam is
visible in the background. The photo below is the dam as seen from the
west side of the river.
The photo above is the powerplant complex as seen from the east side of the
river. The new powerplant is the closer structure. The photo below is
a view of the powerplant from the west side of the river. The historic
older powerplant is on the right side of the photo. The suspension
pedestrian bridge is visible in the upper photo, while a pedestrian bridge
over the old powerplant intake is shown in the photo below.
The photo above is the control structure at the east end of the dam during
a period of very high water following a sudden spring thaw. The photo below
is the west end of the dam structure and the powerplant.