Channel Chat May 2020

Center Street Dam, Des Moines, IA

Hello River Lovers,

This second Channel Chat will be all about low-head dams. They may look innocent, but in reality they are treacherous for people and negatively impact our waterways and aquatic life.

In 2010, Iowa had 177 low-head dams in 57 of the state’s 99 counties. Low-head dams span the width of the river and are less than 20 feet high. They can be deceptively dangerous due to the fact that the drop can be nearly invisible from upstream. On average, in Iowa about 2 people per year die from a low-head dam.

For these reasons, removing dams in our rivers is one of Iowa Rivers Revival’s top priorities. The benefits of dam modification include:

  • Improving habitat
  • Reconnecting rivers
  • Better recreational opportunities
  • Attract new and maintain current workforce
  • Positively impact economic development

For more information check out our Low-Head Dam Modification Success Stories Booklet. Additionally, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is hosting 4 dam safety webinars in May.

  • May 6: Dams 101 and Dam Safety Program
  • May 13: How Dams Fail and How to Properly Maintain Your Dam
  • May 20: Dam Ownership, When and How to Hire an Engineer
  • May 27: Dam Design and Permitting

To register for these free webinars visit the DNR Website.

Thanks for reading this month’s Channel Chat. If you have questions or want to share you low-head dam stories please reach out to me at 515.350.4387 or at sara@iowarivers.org.

Stay well,


To help us in our mission of removing low-head dams and restoring Iowa rivers, consider becoming a River Champion through a tax-deductible donation.

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Featured River

Maquoketa

A tributary of the Mississippi River, it is approximately 150 miles long. It is home to a whitewater park located in Manchester, IA. In order to create the park, a low-head dam had to be removed. There are four other dams located on the Maquoketa River: Delhi, Mon-Maq, Backbone Lake, and Lakehurst.

DamNation Movie by Patagonia

Our friends at Patagonia created a movie called DamNation. The film “explores the evolution of our national attitude from pride in big dams as engineering wonders to the growing awareness that our own future is bound to the life and health of wild rivers.”

Amazon.com: DamNation (2014): Ben Knight, Ben Knight, Ben Knight ...