River and Creek

Newspaper clippings that give historical information about the metal truss bridge in Sartell over the Mississippi

Sauk Center Herald Sauk Center, MN Apr 18, 1912 

Sauk Center Herald, Sauk Center, MN Dec 17. 1914

Little Falls Herald, Little Falls, MN Jan 16, 1914

Little Falls Herald,  Little Falls, MN  Apr 24, 1914

The Wanigan's were barge boats that the River Drivers used as they transported logs down the Mississippi River. One of the Wanigan's would be their bunk house and a second Wanigan would be their cook shack.

Sauk Center Herald, Sauk Center, MN Apr2, 1908 

Newspaper clipping with the information about the suspension/swinging bridge in Sartell.

The swinging bridge that crossed the Mississippi River  in Sartell

A person walking across the swinging bridge in Sartell

flood 1943
flood 1965

The water flow was measured at 381,506.49 gallons of water per second over the Sartell Dam in the 1965 flood. 

This photo shows the men boarding up the river  to hold it back with wooden planks called "needles". This photo is around 1937


By Thomas Sartell


“Even earlier and lasting until about 1930 a plank walkway, flanked by hand railings was part of the upper dam complex, that dam being maintained to preserve water levels for nearby resident, even though the first mill it originally served was destroyed by fire about 1909. The dam and its bridge eventually became too costly to keep up.

One more Watab River bridge must be mentioned. It was strictly a foot bridge arching over the water, constructed of lumber and located just beyond the second sharp turn upstream from the river mouth. It was made especially for completing a shortcut for children living south of the Watab in going to school. It was built in the 1920’s by Joseph S. Sartell and must have lasted at least 10 years.

The need for spanning the Watab River was not overlooked, either. In the early days of the village that stream was quite negotiable by fording since, except at spring spate, it had shallow, solid-bottom areas. But as soon as was practicable a bridge was put in a bit over 100 feet upstream from the river mouth. That may have been a rather crude wooden structure and it was replace by a steel-girdered bridge which served until 1924.

At that time a temporary wooden bridge was put in just downstream, running through the park for use only for that summer. The old bridge was then torn down and a new, concrete span was put in its place. That lasted from 1924 until it was replaced by a newer, wider bridge in the 1980’s. With the rate at which the city growing and traffic increasing, that structure seemed soon to be inadequate.

Other, lesser bridges of the Watab have also served individuals over the years.

Prior to 1910 or thereabouts a catwalk over and paralleling the lower dam (now only a memory) offered a way for people to keep their feet dry when crossing the stream. Mainly, though, it was for servicing the dam that ponded water upstream or running a sawmill and a turbine to generate the village’s first electricity.”

This is a direct quote from the book History of Sartell, Minnesota  Lumber, Paper, Valves and Progress  A Century of Progress  Welcoming a Century of Promise.  Pages 142-143


Helpful definitions

Fording= the act of crossing a stream or river by wading or in a car or on a horse

Spate= the occurrence of a water flow resulting from sudden rain or melting snow

The "Little White Bridge" at the Watab and Mississippi River until 1980.

Lower Dam on the Watab 

Upper Dam at the Grist Mill on Watab. The hill in the background is where 1st Street North is currently. 


A Log Jam on the Mississippi

Sauk Rapids Sentinel, June 16,1885

"Probably the largest log jam in the history of lumbering on the Upper Mississippi River, formed above the dam at this place, last Saturday. the jam extended from bank to bank, and up the river to the Stowell place. Logs and telegraph poles were piled up solidly and apparently inextricably and formed a solid bridge across the river as far as the jam extended. The aspect was grand, and at the same time threatened danger to the dam, bridge and other property below, and the water in the river backed up and raised from four to five feet.

Early Sunday morning, a small crew of lumbermen arrived and commenced work at the head of the dam, but for the greater part of the day their labors did not show to be of much avail. 

Hundreds of people thronged the river banks and also crossed over on the logs. About 8 o'clock p.m. on Sunday; however, the labors of the lumbermen, aided by the accumulated volume of water, were awarded, and the immense body of logs started. In a few moments they commenced running over the dam and down the rapids below, afforded one of the grandest spectacular scenes that could well be imagined.

Surging, bounding and grinding in their irresistible onward course, the scene was truly awe-inspiring. Fortunately, no damage was done to either dam or other property. It is estimated that there were 40 million feet of logs in this jam"

Where Rivers Merge, Stories from the History of Sartell, MN.  William Towner Morgan page 22

The building of the new concrete bridge across the Mississippi River.