Dam removal in River Falls should benefit Kinnickinnic River flow

30January 2021

Lake Luise in River Falls, Wis., is a victim of the Kinnickinnic River flood of June 2020. The flood damaged a hydroelectric dam, which held back the river waters to create the lake in an impoundment.

City officials drained the lake to inspect the dam, then realized the $100,000 in damages was too much to repair. That means the dam will be removed — and the impoundment will drain.

“It did not make a lot of sense to refill it,” said city spokeswoman Mary Zimmerman.

The loss of the lake, however, looks to pay environmental dividends for the Kinnickinnic River — with stronger, colder water flow through that waterway.


In 1904, a wooden dam at Powell Falls created Lake Luise. The city grew up next to it.

Now, the area of the former 15-acre body of water at the southwest corner of the city will be mostly dry. The hydroelectric dam has stopped generating electricity, and it is scheduled to be removed in 2026.

The dam above it — Junction Falls Dam — will be removed after 2035. That will drain Lake George.

The Junction Falls Dam will continue to generate power until it is dismantled, said Utilities Director Kevin Westhuis. When both dams are removed, the river will plunge about 75 feet, restoring the city’s namesake falls.


It will be a benefit to the environment and to tourism, predicted Westhuis.

He said draining the lake is good for life in the river. Trout, for example, prefer colder water in flowing streams — and can’t handle the warm, stagnant waters of Lake Luise.

Westhuis said it will be an improvement for kayakers, who will have a churning river to navigate.

After 117 years, parts of the lake have accumulated 12 feet of silt. It has made the lake almost two feet deep in most places, he said.

He does not mourn the passing of Lake Luise, but welcomes the rebirth of an energized stretch of the Kinnickinnic River.

“The river is headed toward restoration,” he said, “which is what the community wanted to see happen.”

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