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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Cut-A-Way Dam
Saint Croix River Dam
Solon Spring, WI

Cut-A-Way Dam

• Structure ID: N/A.
• Location: River Mile 167.6.
• River Elevation: 1,014 Feet.
• Structure: Pine Ridge Snowmobile Trail
• Bridge Type: Steel Truss, Concrete Deck.
• Length: 27 Feet (Estimated).
• Width: 10 Feet (Estimated).
• Navigation Channel Width: Non-Navigable.
• Height Above Water: 5 Feet (Estimated).
• Date Built: 2007.
The first use of the Saint Croix River was for travel by native Americans. Later, they made use of the wild rice that grew in the shallow backwaters of the river. In the 1800s, the river was all about logging. The loggers needed high water and rapid flows, the exact opposite of the types of conditions desired by the native Americans. This resulted in conflict, and finally the US Army was brought in to settle the problems in favor of the loggers.

The area between Gordon and Solon Springs was the northernmost point where a logging dam could be built. The idea was that loggers would drag their logs onto the ice behind the dam during the winter. When the ice melted, the logs would be floating in the water. When the water behind the dam was high enough, the gates would be opened and the water and logs would flow through the dam. The surge of high water would carry the logs downstream until deep water was located. At that point, the logs would be gathered up into large rafts and floated down to one of the mills.

On the most primitive of these logging dams, loggers would simply block the river with logs and gravel. No gates or mechanism would be installed. When the time came to release the logs, explosives would be used to cut a hole in the dam. As a result, this style of dam was called a cut-away dam.

Cut-A-Way dam was built by lumberman Issac Staples in 1871 at a cost of $10,000. It was expensive at that time, but worth it for the lumber that it helped to produce. Staples used the dam to assist in the harvest of an exceptional grove of large pine trees located along the nearby Moose River. Other loggers used the dam, too, paying Staples a usage fee.

The timber was mostly played out by the early 1900s since the virgin forests had all been cut by that time. As a result, Cut-A-Way dam was abandoned. The Wisconsin DNR cut out a large section of the dam to improve the river for canoes. The remains of the dam sat more or less abandoned until the early 2000s. At that time, Douglas County was improving its network of ATV and Snowmobile trails in order to bring more tourism into the county.

Douglas County desired to extend the Pine Ridge Snowmobile Trail across the Saint Croix River to connect with the new Wild Rivers Trail on the west side of the Saint Croix. Bids were collected in 2006, and the trail bridge was built in 2007. These photos were taken in the spring of 2008 just after the first winter season had passed.

The photo above is the first view of the bridge when heading eastbound towards the west bank of the Saint Croix River. The trail is built along the top of the embankment of the former logging dam.

Cut-A-Way Dam
The photo above is the south face of the bridge as seen from the southwest corner of the structure. The photo below is the upriver face of the bridge as seen from the northwest corner of the structure.

Cut-A-Way Dam
Cut-A-Way Dam
The photo above is a view of the bridge deck from the northwest corner of the structure. The photo below is a view of the east bridge portal and the trail heading towards the east as seen from the middle of the bridge span.

Cut-A-Way Dam
Cut-A-Way Dam
These two photos are views of the dam remains and trail bridge as seen from the upriver side of the structure. The photo above is an overview, while the photo below is a close view of the bridge.

Cut-A-Way Dam
Cut-A-Way Dam
The photo above is the guide sign for the Cut-A-Way Logging Dam Site. The photo below is a view looking to the south down the path of the Canadian National Railroad tracks. These tracks run north and south along the west bank of the Saint Croix River in this area.

Cut-A-Way Dam

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