Red Lake River Rock Rapids

Crookston, MN

The constructed rock rapids of the Red Lake River Restoration and Habitat Improvement Project strike a balance among safety, functionality, recreation, aesthetics, and conservation. The former Ottertail Power dam posed a threat on several fronts—to people, wildlife, and the environment. The rapids have improved fish habitat and have allowed walleye and lake sturgeon to move upstream to historic spawning sites. Erosion of the river bank and sedimentation has been minimized, and public safety and recreational opportunities have been enhanced.

The Ottertail Power dam was one of the most disruptive structures in the Red River Basin. Built in the early 1900s and rebuilt in 1942, the dam posed a significant life-safety threat and had caused excessive erosion, deteriorated river banks, and degraded fish habitat. Erosion had significantly widened the channel below the dam. By completely removing the dam and constructing rapids in its place, the project area was manageable, upstream water levels preserved, energy dissipated, safety enhanced, and river banks stabilized—all while creating a more natural and inviting recreational area.

WSN designed the improvement, prepared construction plans and specifications, assisted the City with permit applications as well as the bidding process, and provided all construction layout staking and detailed grade staking, material testing, construction observation, and contract administration. The firm also completed as-built construction surveys, documenting elevations, rock placement locations, and river bottom elevations, both up- and downstream project area.