US Army Corps of Engineers
St. Paul District Website


Mississippi River Headwaters Reservoirs

Published March 21, 2019
Updated: Sept. 18, 2019
Mississippi River Headwaters reservoirs

Mississippi River Headwaters reservoirs map

Location/Project Components

The Mississippi River Headwaters Project consists of six headwaters dams in north-central Minnesota. Cross Lake, Gull Lake, Big Sandy Lake, Lake Winnibigoshish, Pokegama Lake and Leech Lake make up the headwaters lakes system.

They were constructed or reconstructed between 1900 and 1913 (work on Pokegama started in 1884 and Winnibigoshish in 1885) to aid navigation on the Mississippi River between St. Paul, Minnesota and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. The navigation mission declined with the creation of the 9-foot channel, and as recreation grew in importance to the region’s economy, the mission shifted to flood risk management, recreation and environmental stewardship.


Funding in fiscal year 2019 will be used to complete the plans and specification for the Sandy Lake Dam rehabilitation project and if funded, construction in fiscal years 2020 and 2021. Will continue boundary surveying and rectification of fee and flowage easement lands and complete an inventory of special status species at Mississippi River Headwaters Reservoirs Projects. The district commander made a decision to revoke the license and close the Gull Lake Dam Road on December 1, 2025. Also conducting evaluation of the proposed National Loon Center at the Cross Lake Recreation Area.


The project includes six U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-managed campgrounds and several day-use areas. The project’s multiple-use water resource management (flood risk management, recreation and environmental stewardship) affects several communities, thousands of property owners, countless recreational users, resource agencies, industry, the general public and Native American communities.

Since their construction, the reservoirs in the headwaters have prevented $59 million in flood damages.



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FY 20 Pres Budget