Friends of Mon-Maq Dam

Our Historic Dam

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Prior to construction of the present dam, previous dams provided power for a saw mill, constructed in 1853, and a grist mill, constructed in 1855.  The then existing structure was utilized by J.S. Lang and his son to provide sufficient electricity to power 3000 lights in Monticello in 1891. 

The present Monticello Maquoketa River dam was constructed between 1913 and 1914.  According to the DNR’s “2010 River Dam Survey”, the Monticello Dam meets the definition of a “low head dam”, “A river-wide dam that is normally overtopped by the entire river’s flow; gates may or may not be present to reduce upstream flooding effects. Height is less than 30 feet.”  The survey states the dam is only 10 feet high and 441 feet long.  It has flood gates.  

Electric turbines were installed in 1921 providing true electrification for homes in Monticello and the surrounding rural area.   Diesel generators were also used to provide power when water power alone was not sufficient.  An icehouse was added in 1935.  In approximately 1960, electric power generation at the dam ceased.  The generators were later removed. The dam and 63 acres of land were ultimately transferred by Iowa Electric to  Jones County ownership in the 1960s.

In the words of the criteria for eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places, the dam “is associated with an event that has made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history”. (36 C.F.R. 60.4(a)).  That event is the electrification of our small towns and rural areas.  This event dramatically improved the lives of millions of Americans.  One need only reflect on the catastrophic impact of the failure of our electrical system, if it were to occur, to understand the significance of this event. 

For the past 50+ years, the dam has remained an important part of life in Monticello and Jones County.  Residents and visitors alike have enjoyed the outstanding fishing, scenic beauty, historical significance, and various water sports provided by the dam.