An important fish habitat project was completed on the Red Lake River in August, 2005. The project included the removal of the Ottertail Power dam, and the construction of a boulder rapids upstream of the old dam site, in the City of Crookston.
With the removal of this dam, the only barrier remaining between Crookston and Thief River Falls is a remnant sill of the "old" Ottertail Power dam. A plan is being developed to remove that barrier, which is located 6 miles upstream of Crookston.
Removal of these barriers on the Red Lake River allows fish to swim all the way from the Red River in East Grand Forks, to the Thief River Falls dam, which is a distance of 125 river miles. Fish will also be re-connected to the waters of the Clearwater River. This re-connection is important, since spawning sites for lake sturgeon, walleye, sauger, and many other species exists in this part of the watershed.
Almost immediately after the Crookston dam was removed, anglers started catching catfish and goldeye upstream of this location, which rarely happened before. Also, an angler reported catching a sauger in Thief River Falls. According to this excited angler, it was the first sauger he has caught in that stretch of river during the 45 years he has fished there.
This project also eliminated the dangerous hydraulic currents associated with the lowhead dam, thus making this part of the river safer for users.
Newly created rapids on the Red Lake River in Crookston
Another view of the new rapids on the Red Lake River in Crookston
Among the groups who contributed to this effort, were: Board of Soil and Water Resources, West Polk Soil and Water District, Minnesota DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Minnesota PCA, City of Crookston, The Nature Conservancy, Riverwatch, Red Lake River Corridor Joint Powers Board, Widseth Smith, Nolting, and Associates, Polk County, and the Red Lake Watershed District.
For questions or comments, please contact:
Assistant Area Fisheries Supervisor
204 Main Street East
Baudette, MN 56623
tel.: (218) 634-2522
e-mail: Assistant Area Fisheries Supervisor