History of the Lake Ada Dam

(From DockPost Spring 2002)

Jon Hansen

Lake Ada's watershed encompasses 9,593 acres, and begins in the area surrounding Rush Lake. Water from Rush Lake finds its way into Hay Lake, from which a small stream, Ada Brook, flows to Hand and Little Hand lakes before passing under CR 43 and into the north bay of Lake Ada. From the outlet on the east side of Lake Ada, marked by the sign "Elthon's Outlet," Ada Brook flows over the Lake Ada dam to Bass Lake, Lizzie Lake, and finally westward under Hwy 84 into the North Fork of the Pine River.

During the mid 1930's Lake Ada experienced extremely low water levels. Although no official records survive, this period may have been an all-time low. Fishermen and boaters picnicked on the island, and local farmer Ernie Siltman accessed farm land by driving his team of horses around the lakeshore on the wide sand beach. The Lake Ada dam was constructed during this period in an attempt to control erosion and fluctuating water levels by adding a permanent concrete structure at the lake's outlet.

The State Conservation Department surveyed the Ada Brook outlet on March 12, 1935 to verify no other structure, such as a logging dam, had ever occupied the site. On April 4, 1935 an easement was obtained from the landowner, S.J. Reader of Minneapolis, and on August 28,1935 the project was approved by the Commissioner of Conservation. The Lake Ada Water Control Dam project received final approval on November 29, 1935. Preconstruction estimates for labor and material totaled $1814. On March 12, 1936 work commenced, with Reuben Spencer of Pine River hired as project foreman. The project was completed July 3, 1936 at a total cost of $2440 ($110. state, $2330 federal).

Lake Ada's first dam keeper was Otto Parlitz, owner of Spring Beach Resort, who manipulated the wooden stop-logs until April 15, 1947, when they were fixed at a height of .6 feet. The original dam had 4-foot abutments at either end, three 2.8-foot piers separating four bays, and a catwalk across the top. In 1949 the piers were cut off at stop-log height and the catwalk removed. Wooden stop-logs were replaced with concrete in 1955, and the present steel stop-logs were installed in 1982 and 1983.

Photos courtesy of Doug Schaffer, MN DNR