The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Paul District, is hosting a centennial celebration for its Gull Lake Dam at the Gull Lake Recreation Area, near Brainerd, at 1 p.m. Aug. 4.
Gull Lake Dam, located on the Gull River about one-half mile below the outlet of Gull Lake, was the last of six headwaters dams built by the St. Paul District as part of the nation’s first reservoir system. The reservoir system was originally authorized by Congress to regulate water levels for navigation purposes. However, its impact on navigation was short-lived. Mississippi River channel modification undertaken after 1907 and the series of locks and dams built in the main river channel in the 1930s more efficiently regulated water levels.
During this time, recreational use of the headwaters lakes and rivers by anglers, hunters, campers and boaters greatly increased. Resort and lakeshore property owners became as concerned about water levels as Minneapolis flour millers had been 40 years earlier. Farmers, wild rice growers and northern Minnesota paper mills and sawmill owners also added their voices to the management of headwaters lake water levels.
The 1965 Federal Water Project Recreation Act allowed the Corps to maintain recreational facilities at its sites and a master recreation development plan was put into place at the Gull Lake site in the late 1960s. Today, an average of 500,000 guests use the Gull Lake facilities annually, contributing an estimated $12 million to the area economy.
The celebration will recognize the past 100 years at the Gull Lake Dam and Recreation Area and highlight the many changes that have occurred. It will include the signing of a partnership agreement between the Corps and the Confidence Learning Center. The Gull Chain of Lakes Association will also present the Minnesota governor’s proclamation, naming July 30, as “Gull Lake Dam and Chain of Lakes Centennial Day” to corps staff.
Following the commemoration, the corps will host a medallion hunt for kids. The winner will receive a St. Paul District commemorative coin and all participants will receive a Gull Lake Dam souvenir. Confidence Learning Center will provide an opportunity to view numerous reptiles up close. The event is free to the public. More information is available by contacting Gull Lake Park Manager Mary Kay Larson at (651) 290-5770. The park is located at 10867 E. Gull Lake Drive, Brainerd, Minn.