***The Sandy Lake Dam rehabilitation will continue during the 2022 recreation season and we are currently not accepting campsite reservations. ***
The recreation area will remain accessible via the south entrance for day use. The north entrance will be closed until construction is completed.
The following remain open for day use until 10 p.m. daily:
The purpose of this page is to provide updates for the ongoing construction at Big Sandy Lake.
A. The Sandy Lake Dam rehabilitation project consists of repairs and improvements that are needed to address immediate dam safety concerns and ensure continued safe operation of the dam into the future. The dam is being rehabilitated, not rebuilt. The concrete structure is over 100 years old and is showing signs of deterioration. The rehabilitation is scheduled to take place in the fall and winter months of 2020-2022.
A. The study of fish passage at Sandy Lake Dam is complex and requires significant research and planning. Although a fish passage is not incorporated in the dam rehabilitation design, there is still potential to install a fish passage in the future if shown to be justified and constructable. A congressional action de-authorizing the lock chamber for navigation would enhance these efforts. The Corps of Engineers proposed language to be incorporated to the 2018 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA 2018), which would result in the lock being de-authorized for navigation. The proposal was denied for WRDA 2018, but will continue to be available to incorporate in WRDA 2020. The Minnesota DNR will be reaching out to appropriate elected officials in order to advocate for lock de-authorization. Historically, a fish ladder existed on the dam structure, but was ineffective in design for native fish species – it was too steep and turbulent. The fish ladder was removed during a previous dam rehabilitation in the 1950s.
A. Water levels on the reservoir will continue to be managed at normal elevations throughout the construction period. Rehabilitation work is occurring in two phases, which will allow for water flow capacities to be maintained throughout the repair process. The summer operating range for Big Sandy Lake Reservoir is a six-inch elevation range between elevations 1216.06 to 1216.56 (NGVD29), with the middle this range being the target elevation - 1216.31 (NGVD29). Water level information can be found online at https://www.mvp-wc.usace.army.mil/.
A. The Big Sandy Lake fish movement study is not related to the Sandy Lake Dam rehabilitation project. The Corps of Engineers is partnering with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to conduct a five-year fish movement study looking at how fish live and move within the Big Sandy Lake watershed. The study will help determine future actions that will be beneficial to native fish regarding dam operation and watershed management.
Mar 26 2021
Historic Big Sandy Lake
Historic photos of Big Sandy Lake
Hunter Simonson, natural resources specialist, changes the gate with a large drill.
Downstream stop log bays
New stop log bays
The stop logs for phase 1 were delivered and are in the process of being placed, Feb. 10, 2022.
Pump house renovations, Sept. 16, 2021
A crane moves a skid steer, Sept. 21, 2021
Phase 1 apron concrete pour, Sept. 1, 2021
Phase 1 concrete, Sept. 24, 2021
Lockwall concrete overlay, August 19, 2021
Apron work, August 19, 2021
Dewatering and mucking out the lock chamber - June 15, 2021
Downstream lock chamber - June 15, 2021
Downstream cofferdam placement - June 10, 2021
Construction continued at Sandy Lake Dam, June 1, 2021.
Gate change at Sandy Lake Dam. You can monitor lake levels on our water management site at water.usace.army.mil
A crane works on the Sandy Lake Dam rehabilitation
A buoy line has been placed upstream of the Sandy Lake Dam to keep boats out of the construction zone.
The south entrance of the Sandy Lake Recreation Area remains open to day use including: fishing, picnicking, use of playground and beach, walking and other short term/day use activities.
Pile driving from downstream at Big Sandy Lake Dam, March 3, 2021
The recreation area is accessible via the south entrance for day use. The north entrance will be closed until construction is completed (photo of the south boat ramp onto Big Sandy Lake, view from the beach).
Upstream coffer dam being installed for phase 1 (lock chamber) March 12, 2021
Construction at Big Sandy Lake Dam March 20, 2021
Construction at Big Sandy Lake Dam, March 2, 2021
Big Sandy Lake Dam pre-rehab, Jan. 11, 2021
Corps Sandy Lake page
Sandy Lake on recreation.gov
Camping will be available at the five other US Army Corps of Engineers headwaters dams and recreation areas during the 2021 season: Leech Lake, Winnibigoshish, Pokegama, Cross Lake and Gull Lake.
Visit recreation.gov to make reservations!
The final Environmental Assessment for the Big Sandy Lake Dam rehabilitation project