Dec 11-01

Past-E-Mail: Cam Notes - 2001: December: Dec 11-01
Old Redridge Dam    ...scroll down to share comments
Photo by Kevin Musser

Kevin Musser on Tuesday, December 11, 2001 - 09:41 pm:

In 1894 a new mill in Redridge required a large amount of water to aid in the stamping process when the Atlantic Mining Company built their first dam on the Salmon Trout River. It was timber crib filled with loose rock and dirt, 53' at the bottom, 28' at the top and 50 feet high. The length across the stream is 51 feet at the bottom, 228 feet at the top. The timbers were 14 inches thick and hewed flat, connected with one-inch drift bolts. The upstream face is lined with four-inch plank, which was then covered in two-inch plank. There were two 24" drainpipes, which could be used to fill and drain the pond created behind the dam. The water was transported to the Mill by 18" x 36" launders, which dropped at a 5% angle for over one half of a mile from the dam to the Mill.

In 1901 the Atlantic and the new Baltic Mining Company built a gravity steel dam, which increased the water capacity needed for operating both mills. For a period of its life the wooden dam was completely submerged. In 1943 Copper Range (which controlled the Atlantic and Baltic by this time) opened the discharge valves to keep it from cresting and washing out the county road below during the spring seasons as it occasionally did. The need for the dams had ended years before after the closing of the Baltic mine in the 1931. Finally in 1979 Copper Range cut 4 four by eight foot holes in the steel dam to further eliminate any danger from flooding, and in the process returned the wooden dam to its designed function of holding back water. The years have now taken their toll.

Recently the state of Michigan Dam inspector issued a repair, rebuild, or replace order for the wooden dam in Redridge. This could lead to another piece of our historic past disappearing here in the Copper Country. The Redridge dams are a wonderful place to see the power of engineering resting in a place of natural beauty. It is fortunate that there are those that share a passion for saving these pieces of our past in order to insure their preservation by making them a safe place where everyone can enjoy them today.

Local resident Cindy Miller volunteered herself to Bill McKilligan Stanton Township Supervisor, to find funding and to come up with ideas for this restoration project. Cindy relates "Our status as of now is very preliminary, we do not have a plan in place, just a goal to restore/rebuild it during the next year or so". will be posting updates on a special Redridge Dam page as plans are developed, so stop by and check for updates. We also have a discussion board related to this project as well as other subjects of interest. If you are interested in helping out in anyway you can drop a line to Cindy and give her your input or support. Her email address is

By hooved locust on Tuesday, December 11, 2001 - 10:02 pm:

If its not doing anything, take the dam out. I'd rather see a free flowing river or stream than a dam.

By John Doe on Tuesday, December 11, 2001 - 10:18 pm:

I walked across that dam a couple years back. It was a true rush to feel all the power of that dam and the lake it holds behind it.

By Aimos at MTU on Tuesday, December 11, 2001 - 10:42 pm:

sure is a neat lookin dam though...

By Marc, Houghton on Wednesday, December 12, 2001 - 02:23 am:

Over the years, I have spent countless hours at the dam and elsewhere on the Salmon-Trout, fishing with my children and occasionally a friend. While returning the river to the way Mother Nature had intended is indeed a nobel cause, I think it is neither practical nor financially feasible. We should work together to preserve the history or at least to insure that the dam is replaced, keeping in mind that the area is a place of beauty, to be used by many, for generations to come.

I think I will drop Cindy a line and see what my kids and I can do to help and I urge everyone who has ever wet a line or pulled in a shiny salmon or steelhead from the Salmon-Trout to lend a hand.

And as always: THANK YOU, PASTY CAM!!

one week to go...

By My 2 Cents on Wednesday, December 12, 2001 - 08:12 am:

Free the Salmon Trout River! (If you need to feel the power of engineering, try Glen Canyon.)

Rivers are damned--er,excuse me--dammed--all over the planet. UP rivers--and the critters who live in them--should be wild and free!

By Mike, Indiana on Wednesday, December 12, 2001 - 08:24 am:

A real piece of history. This is something that should be repair so that the furture can view the past. Think of generations to come and there view of the copper mining history of the region. Repair the dam.

By T.B., MI on Wednesday, December 12, 2001 - 08:29 am:

Just amazing how far we have come with being noble and politically correct. This structure has a history of over 100 years. It sounds as if man not only benefited from the structure, in many ways, but so did the fish and probably other wildlife. Beavers (those little environmental whack-o's) have been building damns forever. We should probably eliminate them too. Obviously I am for restoring the structure and my faith in mankind too.

By MME on Wednesday, December 12, 2001 - 08:43 am:

Sounds like a real can of worms was opened regarding this issue. Let's go fishing, but only after we ask the beavers how they feel about it.

By Brant, IL on Wednesday, December 12, 2001 - 08:47 am:

What the opponents of the dam seem to be overlooking is that the Michigan Dam Inspector's order was to "repair, rebuild, or replace." Removing the dam is not, apparently, an option. Now the question is: Do you want to preserve an historical wooden dam, or replace it with something modern. I'm for saving the dam and preserving history. Good luck to you, Cindy.

By Adam, IL on Wednesday, December 12, 2001 - 09:15 am:

Sounds like you all have something that is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Cindy might want to check with the cultural resources manager at the Keweenaw National Historical Park and see what options might be available for getting funds. We love the area up there, and go camping at McLain every summer.

By GC on Wednesday, December 12, 2001 - 09:16 am:

In this world you will always find folks that are like bad weather, always with us.
These are the same ones that use electricity, drive autos, etc, but always complain that were destroying nature.
To much idle time has a way of bringing out the devils tools, (provacation,confrontation,ignorance).

By CMiller,Mi on Wednesday, December 12, 2001 - 09:51 am:

Hi folks, and thanks to all who are interested in this project! Your input is appreciated. Id like to make a few clarifications. The DEQ order is to Repair, Replace or Remove; But, both the wooden dam and the steel dam at Redridge are listed on The Mi Historic Record. We are awaiting response from the Historic Preservation Office on what our options are.
The lake behind this dam is substantial, and is home to at least 5 nesting pairs of eagles, also otters, beavers, loons, herons, and of course trout and other fish. Thank you for your continued comments,and a big thank you to Kevin Musser of for his help! Cindy Miller

By Bob G., Houghton Lake, MI on Wednesday, December 12, 2001 - 09:53 am:

Back when I was at da Tech a few years ago I did a report on Redridge for an industrial archaeology class. I would be very sorry to see the timber dam go (or the steel one for that matter) because I spent many afternoons exploring all around that area.
If anybody would like to see my report, I put it online a few years back. Here's the address:

There's probably going to be a new addition to that site soon because I just did a paper on Ahmeek. I might have it posted by the end of summer because I'd want to go up there and get some pictures to add to the report.

By C. LaVergne, Lake Linden, MI on Wednesday, December 12, 2001 - 10:34 am:

I, too, spent many an hour exploring this area. There is a monument between the steel dam and the road from, I believe, the American Society of Civil Engineers. Maybe that is an association to ask for advice and/or ways of funding a restoration project for the wood dam. One has to visit the dam to truly appreciate the size of the logs and the manpower needed to build it in the late 1800s.

By Ernie WA on Wednesday, December 12, 2001 - 11:03 am:

The UP is my home and I agree with most of the people that have responded to the dams. That is a part of History that should not be eliminated. Notice, the ones who were against it didn't give there name or state they were from. Right on G.C. and T.B. those environmental wack-o's are messing up this world. They live in wood houses, drive cars made of steal, burn gas, wear cloths and the list goes on. If you took everything away that they are against, they would out in the elements NAKED!!! Back to the Redridge Dams, they are real history. Isn't the steal dam the largest steal dam in the U.S.? Or the world? Lets do our best to save them.

By JimR - GR Mich on Wednesday, December 12, 2001 - 11:11 am:

What an impressive structure! And what an interesting story and debate. It's just amazing to think of all the man-hours (not to mention sweat and toil) that went into the dam. Can anyone tell me what would be at risk should the dam breach or fail? Maybe the best tribute to the hands that assembled this structure would be to let it fail gracefully, to allow it to stand the test of time. As a society we certainly know how to carve up our environment and control certain aspects, but what would be the harm in humbling ourselves and finding out that all we do is not permanent, and sometimes the river wins...

By 100%yooper, Mi on Wednesday, December 12, 2001 - 12:32 pm:

For those of you opposed to the dam being there, Ponder this. This structure has been there for over 100 years, which is certainly long enough to have contributed to the current wildlife that depends on the pond which was created by damming the river. I feel that if we were to take away that resource, the animals that for generations have relied upon it for food, shelter, and play would most certainly be the ones who lose!


By Eric on Wednesday, December 12, 2001 - 03:50 pm:

No doubt in my mind that history needs to be preserved

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