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KARE in the Air: Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam

With a lift of 49 feet, the lock at St. Anthony Falls accounts for more than 10% of the total height change of the Mississippi between the Twin Cities and St. Louis.

MINNEAPOLIS — The lock and dam at St. Anthony Falls may not be in operation right now, but with its fast current and cascading water, it's still pretty cool to look at.

Our drone series KARE in the Air went up over the landmark, which was completed and opened for use in 1963. The Upper St. Anthony Lock and Dam, along with the Lower St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam, allowed boats to navigate to the 9-foot channel at the headwaters of the Mississippi River.

Locks and dams work by creating a series of water steps that boats can either climb or descend as they travel up or downstream on the Mississippi River.

With a lift of 49 feet, the lock at St. Anthony Falls accounts for more than 10% of the total height change of the Mississippi between the Twin Cities and St. Louis, Mo.

While it operated, the lock used the flow of the river itself as it sprinted downstream toward the Gulf of Mexico, raising the level to that of the upstream waters for boats headed north. For boats going the other way, it simply opened its drain to lower the level of water for boats headed south.

The lock has another function: During flood events, it can release the pressure of a rising river, and control water levels as they ebb and flow.  

The St. Paul District oversees 13 locks and dams beginning here in downtown Minneapolis-- and ending in Guttenberg, Iowa.

The Upper St. Anthony Lock and Dam closed in 2015, not because it wasn't solid and operational, but to guard against the spread of invasive carp up river.