A Coldwater Treasure
Flowing through 25 miles of wetland, prairie and a rugged limestone canyon, the Kinnickinnic River is arguably the best trout stream in the Midwest. Although it is located within an hour's drive of 3 million people, the river flows clear and cold all the way to its confluence with the St. Croix. Trumpeter swans build their nests on muskrat hummocks in the headwater springs, and deer, fisher and the occasional black bear roam the gorge of the lower river, uncrossed by bridges for 7 miles.
The river is protected by public land and easements for much of its length, but it is impaired for two miles in the City of River Falls. In pre-settlement days, this was the most scenic stretch of the Kinni, boasting two waterfalls that gave the city its name. Those falls were dammed in the 1900s. Monitoring efforts begun by TU in the 1990s showed that the dams raise the summer temperature of the lower river by up to 5°F. The impoundments are choked with sediment and support little wildlife or recreation.
A Once in a Generation Opportunity
In 2019, the River Falls City Council passed a resolution to remove the Powell Dam in 2026, followed by the Junction Falls Dam in 2035-40. A non-profit organization, KinniCC was formed to bring together the technical and financial resources needed to remove the dams and restore the river.
On June 30, 2020, a major flood irreparably damaged the Powell Falls dam. The City of River Falls (CRF) drew down the water in the Lake Louise impoundment, and accelerated the dam removal schedule to 2022-23. In February 2022, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved delicensing of the dam.
The project plan, created by KinniCC in consultation with CRF and the Wisconsin DNR, calls for demolition of the dam in the fall, removal and stabilization of bank soil in the fall and winter, and a comprehensive habitat restoration project in 2023 that will transform the former Lake Louise into a mile of prime trout water.
Your support is critical
Our chapter has a longstanding love affair with the Kinni. In their authoritative 1995 guidebook "Wisconsin and Minnesota Trout Streams", TCTU members Jim Humphrey and Bill Shogren wrote: "We'll give 2 hours of our lives, anytime, to fish our respective 100 yards of the Kinnickinnic on a sultry summer evening". In 2020, TCTU contributed $7,500 to assist the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust with the purchase of The Community Forest, a key 40-acre parcel that opened new public access to the lower Kinni.. A member survey last year showed that we fish in Western Wisconsin, including the Kinni and the Rush, more often than anywhere else.
Public funding will pay for the lion's share of the project, but private donations of approximately $1 million are needed to fully restore the river. TCTU is partnering with a constellation of organizations to raise these funds, including our sister chapter KIAP-TU-WISH. We seek at least $15,000 in donations from our members, to be matched by $15,000 from our Chapter account. Please Donate!