University of Wisconsin Eau Claire


Dells Dam Improvement Project

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Half Moon Lake Canal
Dells Dam Improvement Project
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1879 - 1880

The Dells Dam Improvement Project included building a new dam to create a larger 'pond' to better hold and sort logs. The location of the dam was determined by the Dells of the Chippewa River where there were suitable rock walls to secure a dam and sufficient drop below the dam to create 'a head' of pressure that could be used to do work.

In this case the work to be done was to supply water for a 'flume' which would carry logs from Dells Pond to a tunnel that ran under the town of Eau Claire and eventually into Half Moon Lake on its northeast edge. Construction started in late 1879 and the flume and tunnel were completed by 1880. It was built very quickly in hopes to be open for the next sawing season. The photocopy below shows the general layout for the Dells Dam Improvement Project.

Colorized by Neil TromblyDells Dam, Flume and Tunnel locations

The Flume was the first step in the trip for logs going to Half Moon Lake. The logs were sorted above Dells Dam, then shipped to Half Moon Lake in the Flume. The Flume ran south along the Chippewa River on the west bank for about 2000 feet before veering into the City of Eau Claire. The Flume was 7.5 feet wide and 10 feet tall. The flume eventually met up with the tunnel just after the "elbow" of the flume where a sharp westerly turn took place. Workers were stationed at the elbow to ensure that no logs got jammed. The tunnel connected to the Flume and brought logs to Half Moon Lake.

The Flume was a major engineering design of the time and became a major tourist attraction. People would also swim in the flume when logs weren't being pushed through it at the "elbow".

The photo above is looking north up along the flume and at the new Dells Dam.

This photo is looking off of Dells Dam south along the west bank of the Chippewa River. People can be seen walking along the top of the Flume.




A website report by Craig Sternberg and Neil Trombly based on the faculty-student UWEC study of Half Moon Lake under the direction of Professor Douglas Faulkner and Professor Harry Jol.