Mar 29-04

Past-E-Mail: Cam Notes - 2004: March: Mar 29-04
Redridge Timber-crib Dam    ...scroll down to share comments
Photo by Aimee Rathbun

Mary Drew at Pasty Central on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 06:41 am:

The quiet Copper Country towns of Redridge and Liminga have been getting lots of press lately, along with the Covered Drive getting more traffic too. Aimee Rathbun made the beautiful drive there to bring us a first-hand slideshow account of what condition the failing Redridge Dams are in. The original wooden dam pictured above was constructed in 1895. The concern is that if the timber-crib dam fails, the nearby steel dam (built in 1901), may not be able to withstand the deluge of water, resulting in damage or destruction of not only the dam, but also Houghton County Road 554 and the area along the banks of the river. For additional info, check out the Daily Mining Gazette archives online.

By Tom, Romeo, MI on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 06:53 am:

Always one of my favorite rides when I am visiting baby daughter at MTU.

By Patti, TN on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 06:53 am:

Beautiful slide show.

By Uncle bud/old Mohawk guy on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 08:01 am:

Heres a great opportunity ... to finally do a positive service and provide the $$ to repair this dam.

By KLS, AZ on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 08:05 am:

The slide show is fantastic! Thank you!

By steve the flying troll on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 08:21 am:

My wife and I spent time looking at the dam last 4th of July. The "end of the line" on this road rates almost as many pics as the covered road leading to it.

By Down State Dave on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 08:32 am:

Great pics Aimee! And a worthy cause. Hope $$ is found to fix the problem. Anyone remember when the beaver dam let loose on Jacobs Creek some years back?

By Aimee's Mum on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 09:00 am:

I've had this one as my background since I got it from Aimee. Nice Pic Aim!

Tom from Romeo: I am originally from Romeo and my "baby daughter" also goes to Tech.

By troll with connections, Taylor, Mi on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 09:03 am:

I remember the restaurant that was over the bridge, right along side Lakeshore Drive. Wasn't the beaver dam blown up by someone trying to get rid of the beavers? I'm trying to recall if that was during the 50's or 60's.

By Mike-Transplanted Yooper-Redford, Mi. on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 09:20 am:

I spent alot of time out here as a child. We used to visit my great granparents who lived in Liminga, right across the street from Bill Brinkman. During the summer, the guys would always take a walk to the dam. I remember being too scared to walk across the top. The ties and rails were all in place back then.
Whenever we make the trek home to visit, I still come out here to fish and enjoy the peace and quiet. Great pictures, Aimee. It makes me homesick

By aimee's dad on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 09:35 am:

....I always told my kids, as long as your going on the dam tour, make sure you take some dam pictures & put them in a dam slide show! Good job Aim!

By uper1 on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 10:04 am:

Nice dam pic!

By Tom, Romeo, MI on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 10:27 am:

Aimee and Alyson ("baby daughter") probably know each other. Alyson is RHS Class of '03.

Are you all still in Romeo?

By Paul, Lake Linden on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 10:49 am:

Just curious. Haven't heard from Dan Urbanski or seen any of his work of late (I may have miised it along the way as I haven't checked the pasty cam much). Dan, are you out there?

By Audrey, San Jose, CA on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 12:07 pm:

Great slide show! Great way to start my day. Actually, the Pasty cam is always a great way to start my day!
to aimee's dad... loved your comments! made me laugh.

By Sally, Islamorada, Florida on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 12:23 pm:

What a beautiful area. That's probably the only steel dam I will ever see. Thanks for taking the time to share the pictures.

By Mr. Wheatman, South end on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 12:29 pm:

Ahh Redridge, an alfresco utopia for sportsman and natatory game alike. Many an angler has endeavored to transcend the acumen of the evanescent steelhead in the torrential currents of spring. An area of tranquil beauty and natural wonder indeed. Kudos on the fine shots.


By JAD, Oskar, MI on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 12:53 pm:

Question: Should the dam go and the road be washed out could the Beacon Hill/Freda folks "get out" by heading south about 1 3/4 miles on the "Cannery Road" & turning east to the Salmon Trout bridge by the old railroad bed? The snowmobiles use that and there has been a lot of logging. I skied that once, years ago, and I'm wondering if it is driveable. The alternative would be to drive south all the way to the Heikkinen School & over to Toivola. Let's hope repairs can be made. It is a very special dam. And thanks for the slide show!

By skeptical on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 01:23 pm:

They have been saying the dam is ready to collapse for 20 years now. There is so much mud and silt behind the wooden crib that if it did start to go I don't think it would be a total collapse, although one can not tell for sure. I think I will go fishing there yet as I have done for many years already.

By JRH,MI on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 01:24 pm:

I thought I had a pretty good vocabulary. I'm going to have to make studying my Dictionary a part of my daily routine.

By Bob G. Houghton Lake, MI on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 01:26 pm:

Dont want to make a pest of myself (aw heck, why not? :) ) but I posted this a couple of days ago the last time the dam was being talked about.
That has my Redridge pics and research on it.

My personal opinion is that the chances of the timber dam causing a failure in the steel dam are remote. I doubt the entire timber dam will fail at once, only the collapsing right side. The steel dam used to hold back 600 million gallons of water while the timber dam impounds probably 1/3 to 1/2 of that (I really need to look back at my notes for that figure). From what I have seen during spring floods, the 4 holes cut near the base of the dam do an admirable job of letting the water out. And I doubt that any floating timbers will completely block them off. I hesitate to say this, because I dont want to see the dam mutilated any more, but if breakage worries the township, a cheap form of insurance would be to cut a few more holes in the dam, higher up, say at the same level as the top of the timber dam. I just dont think it's necessary though. The steel plate is still in relatively good shape. I am a bit concerned about the bases of some of the I-beam trusses that support it, particularly the ones in the center that have been exposed to spring runoff water. Those should be beefed up if possible.

Could the timber dam collapse cause a steel dam failure? Yes, I just dont think it's the most likely scenario. If the timber dam can just get through this spring,which I think is likely, I think the township will drain down the reservoir and then we as supporters of the site can go from there. Just had a thought actually. I think it would be neat if we could get enough volunteers to repair the dam by hand labor, the same way it was built. Probably wouldnt happen though.

Oh well, enough rambling.
Wishing I could get up there soon, but cant go till Aug.
Bob G. (local Redridge fanatic)

By danbury; germany on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 01:41 pm:

Uncle bud/old Mohawk guy:
Nice suggestion u made there (yesterday), but as it seems, it's "only just another pointless virus". How bland. Thnx for the thought anyway!

By Fran,Ga on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 02:12 pm:

Welcome back Mr Wheatman!

I always liked the drive to Redridge. The last time I was there the trees had been clear cut just off the road on the covered drive.Have they grown back? I wish we had explored more around the town.

By m, wa on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 02:15 pm:

I hear you JRH! I thought my vocabulary was decent, but "Dam"!! Very impressive, Wheatman!:)

By RGG - Cedar Rapids on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 02:28 pm:

"My personal opinion is that the chances of the timber dam causing a failure in the steel dam are remote."

Two words..Johnstown Flood ;-)

Here's a great link:

By Vanessa in Calumet on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 03:11 pm:

**Claps** NICE!!!

By Mike-Transplanted Yooper-Redford, Mi on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 03:18 pm:

JAD, Oskar, Mi
I drove up the old railroad bed last July and it is still very passible. I went from Co. Rd 554 to the Salmon Trout cross cut. Of course I had my 4x4 pickup and there were quite a few large puddles to go thru, but you could get back there with a car if you were careful enough.
Would be a shame to see the wooden dam break. The steel Redridge dam is one of the biggest landmarks in the Copper Country.

By dave s Mad Wisc on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 05:26 pm:

we were at the dam not too many years ago. My mother grew up in Freda. We used to drive through the mill to get to my uncle's cottage/camp, not far down the road...
its a wonderful place

By Down State Dave on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 05:40 pm:

Welcome back Wheatman!

Troll with connections: Don't remember the restaurant but as memory serves, I think the dam washed out in the late sixties. Any other opinions out there?

By steelcatch on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 06:15 pm:

Mr Wheatman, what is causing the numbers of
steelhead to decline on this particular river?

By Paul in Illinois on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 07:12 pm:

The Johnstown Flood was caused by the failure of an earthen dam, that scenario could play out on the berm to the side of the dam but the original out of service overflow channel and the fact that the steel section is lower than the berm makes is very unlikely. I agree with Bob G., today even a catasrophic failure of the wood dam would not cause a similar failure of the steel dam. The downward spiral, however, has begun. Copper Range's expedient measure of cutting holes in the dam relieved them of the immediate need to maintain the dam. It did set up a stituation where the dam will slowly commit suicide. The out flow from those holes has been damaging the concrete footings of the structure. The folks that made that decission rested on their profit margins and any civil authorities that OK'd the move avoided a sticky situation. Now the poblem has come home to roost on the current residents of the township.
The structure is one of the engineering highlights of the Copper Country and of the US. It is worthy of preservation.
You can access Aimee's discussion site via Kevin Musser's Copper Range Railroad site.

By SAD STEELHEAD FISHERMAN on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 07:23 pm:


By JRH,MI on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 10:09 pm:

Well, it's time to put my Dictionary down and call it a night. By the way, that is an excellent slide show. My better half and I spent some time at the Redridge Dam area Sunday the 28th. I don't know if that thing is going to hold or not, I hope it does, Houghton County and Stanton Township can't afford what that clean-up would cost.

By aimee's sibling on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 10:15 pm:


By Aimee's Brodder on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 10:22 pm:

Just making sure the whole family has input on these pictures... Those pictures are beautiful, Aimee!

By Ms. Katie temp. Texan on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 10:23 pm:

Another subject ,please, for a moment. I can't remember how to access the cams to view Houghton/Hancock bridge. Also Sharon Smith's (?) cam. Thanks for any help given.

Editor's note: Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on
Bridge Cam

By Ms. Katie on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 10:43 pm:

To Aimee...thanks for the wonderful and fasinating photos. I don't think I've ever heard of this place. Where abouts is it? Everything looks so peaceful and I kinda miss the snow, just a little, in my elder years :) message #2

By Kathy, Lockport, New York on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 10:51 pm:

Other than a beautiful place to visit, was the Redridge dam ever used for recreation at any time (like swimming?) To Dave S. in Wisconsin, your mother was a lucky girl to have grown up in Freda. Mine did too. Nice people are still live there.

By Bob G. Houghton Lake, MI on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 10:56 pm:

"The Johnstown Flood was caused by the failure of an earthen dam, that scenario could play out on the berm to the side of the dam but the original out of service overflow channel and the fact that the steel section is lower than the berm makes is very unlikely."

If the water level were to reach the level of the overflow channel, we'd be in big trouble. According to my research it's only 6' lower than the top of the steel dam. #1 I dont want to see the dam that full right now, it's too risky. #2 the overflow channel was covered over where the current road crosses it. There is no culvert under the road there. (didnt need one because the holes were cut before the road was built) If water starts backing up in that channel, the road is as good as gone.

The earth berms arent as vulnerable as they may seem. They have concrete cores inside of them.

In regard to my statement about how much water the timber dam holds, I got home and looked for it, but cant find a solid number anywhere in my sources. If I get ambitious enough, I may try to figure it out a rough estimate by looking at topographic maps.

"The out flow from those holes has been damaging the concrete footings of the structure"

Absolutely agree here. I cant wait to get up there this summer and take pictures of that area and compare them to the ones I took a couple of years ago to see how fast it's degrading.

By the way, from the looks of one of Aimee's photos, it looks like the main roof of the church is gone? anybody else see that? It could just be a trick of the light/snow on the roof. Last time I was there I peeked in and it looked ready to collapse in the next stiff breeze. Such a pity, it's a cute little building.

By Jim Copper Country on Monday, March 29, 2004 - 11:34 pm:

The Redridge Dam slide show notes mention the Redridge steel dam as being one of only two such in the country.....just out of curiosity, does anyone out there know where the other one is?

By DH, CA on Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - 01:48 am:

Coconino Co. Arizona


"The USFS recently acquired Ash Fork Steel Dam, located in Kaibab National Forest, through a land exchange. Built in 1897 to serve the Santa Fe Pacific Railway, the dam is the first fixed steel dam erected in the United States. Very few others were constructed. A professional journal wrote in 1902 that Ash Fork Dam 'has so many novel features of an experimental character that it is specially interesting and instructive to the engineering profession.' Ash Fork Steel Dam remains one of only two steel dams still standing in the United States."

By JRH,MI on Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - 10:02 am:

Bob G. Houghton Lake, MI
Yes, the main roof is gone. We drove up to the building Sunday simply because it is so cute and we wanted a better view. The owner must be tearing it down to salvage the lumber. I can only guess at the width of the lumber in that thing.

By Dam unfo man on Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - 03:29 pm:

Very nice job on the slide show. The moral of the story here is never buy a dam from anyone. When Copper Range "sold" this dam to the township for $1.00, they managed to get rid of a huge liability associated with maintenance and repair of it. Copper Range,or their predecessors, are the ones who should be responsible for the costs associated with removing or repairing the dam. They snookered the township. Unfortunately, this scenario is still being repeated by owners of failing dams.

By dave s wisc on Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - 06:25 pm:

to Kathy in Lockport NY...
slap me an email...maybe they know each other

By Dave K, Wis. on Tuesday, March 30, 2004 - 09:04 pm:

Down State Dave, et al.

Jacobs Falls was washed out in April of 1972, after a near record snowfall (323inches as I remember) decided to melt all at once. The water came from a very old beaver pond up on the top of the peninsula. There hadn't been any beaver in that pond for a while, and most people thought that the lack of their maintenance was the main cause for the dam failure. I don't remember any restaurant either, doesn't mean there wasn't, but several very old motel cabins were washed almost into Superior. Fortunately no one was there at the time. Someone has recovered a couple of the cabins, and re-instated them along the creek bed.

By Proud Aunt in Hillman, Mi on Wednesday, March 31, 2004 - 02:52 pm:

Way to go Aimee! Now I know the benefits of being an MTU student. A breath of fresh air...can't wait to see your next film show.

By Redridge, MI on Tuesday, April 6, 2004 - 02:26 pm:

The Little Old Church in Redridge is on it's last
legs. The windows, doors, and roof is all gone. And it is starting to lean. There is some ropes supporting part of it, but all the wood was taken out because of liabillity reasons.

Now about the Dam. The water level has gone up past the holes and back down again. I don't think there is to much to worry about this year. Worrying is going to make things any better.

By Dave; Holland, MI; MTU 1979 on Wednesday, August 3, 2005 - 04:27 pm:

Oh - my - gosh. I haven't been to Redridge since I graduated from Tech 26 years ago. I am planning a trip to Houghton / Copper Harbor in late August. After seeing the slideshow, I just altered my plans to drive the covered road and take my own pictures of the dams. I forgot all about Redridge. Thaks for the remembery.

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