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Victoria Dam and hydroelectric station, a small 12.4-Megawatt hydro station (two 6.2-MW units), were built in 1931 by the Copper Range Mining Company. The Dam and hydroelectric station are currently operated by Upper Peninsula Power Company (UPPCO), which are remotely controlled from UPPCO’s dispatch center.

In the fall of 1929, just before the great stock market crash, work began on the Victoria hydroelectric development. In January 1931, the facility was placed in commercial operation to provide electricity for the area’s copper mining and forest products industries.

T oday’s Victoria is the third dam on this stretch of the Ontonagon River. In 1902, Hooper’s Dam was built just upstream in what is now the reservoir. It diverted water to the Taylor air compressor to produce energy for the Victoria Mining Company. In 1903, the original Victoria Dam, a concrete multiple-arch buttress-style structure, was built at the falls. In 1991, it was replaced by the existing roller-compacted-concrete gravity stepped-face dam.

There have also been three pipelines at Victoria. The original 1930 red-wood pipeline was replaced in 1959 with one of Douglas Fir. An actual section of the Douglas fir pipeline was saved and is on display at the Dam. For over 40 years, the waters of the south and west branches of the Ontonagon River flowed through this cylinder of wood on their way to Lake Superior. In 2001, the present spiral-welded steel pipeline was built to replace the wooden structure, which had reached the end of its life cycle.

The reservoir, the dam, the pipeline, and t he powerhouse are all integral parts of the station’s generation system. Victoria operates as a run-of-river facility, meaning whatever flows into the reservoir flows out at approximately the same rate, either through the spill gates or through the pipeline.

Gravity moves the water down the pipeline to the powerhouse, where the force of the water passing through the blades of the water wheels drives the turbines and generates electricity. The head (the difference in elevation between the water at the dam and that in the tailrace or discharge below the powerhouse) is 215 feet. Water flows through the pipeline at the rate of 850 cubic feet per second. To put all that into perspective, it could fill nearly 14 million Olympic-sized swimming pools in an average water year.

At Victoria, water from the diversion dam flows through the intake structure at the dam into the spiral-welded steel pipeline and steel penstock to the turbines. The force of the water passing through the blades of the 65 inch diameter cast steel wheels drives the turbine and generators to produce electricity.

Rainfall and melting snow throughout the 801-square-mile watershed upstream of the Victoria eventually end up as water at Victoria Dam. Some of this water is held in storage at UPPCO’s Bond Falls Reservoir, Bergland Dam, or Cisco Dam, and flows as river-run directly to Victoria. This is also the location where the famous Copper Boulder was found and is now in the National Museum in Washington, D.C.

At Victoria this water is used for power generation. However, if the river-run exceeds the storage capacity of the Victoria Dam and the 850 cubic feet per second utilized by the turbines while operating at a full load, it is necessary to spill the excess water through the radial spill gates. Normally the greatest amount of water is spilled during the spring snow-melt or runoff.

Because water can be stored upstream of Victoria for release and use during dry periods, UPPCO is able to operate the power station about 80 percent of the time during the average year. The least amount of generation occurs during July and August when the river-runs are sometimes down to 150 cubic feet per second.

Bergland Dam is a low-head structure built of vertical steel I-beams and wood plank flashboards and is 179 feet long and 4 feet high. It is located on the west branch of the Ontonagon River at the north end of Lake Gogebic and has a storage capacity of about 7,360,000 kilowatthours.

Cisco Dam is a low-head concrete structure 21 feet long and 5 feet high with two 6’8" – wide concrete bays. It is located on the Cisco branch of the Ontonagon River at the north end of the Cisco chain of lakes and has a storage capacity of approximately 1,800,000 kilowatt hours.

UPPCO is conscious of its responsibility to the environment, including fish and wildlife. In cooperation with the Michigan Departments of Natural Resources, a minimum flow is maintained in the river during the period of spring walleye spawning. Monitoring and maintenance of the facility and safety inspections by a qualified engineering firm are ongoing processes, and regular inspections by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) personnel ensure that all environmental and safety regulations are met.

Golden Walleyed Pike, Bass, Perch, and Northern Pike are found in the impounded waters of the beautiful historic Victoria Dam. Turn off US 45 in Rockland and follow this hilly, mountainous road down to the Ontonagon River bed (also excellent fishing); continue on up and past the historic ghost town of Old Victoria, now partially restored and open to the public. Because most land along the Ontonagon River, Victoria Dam, and Bond Falls is owned by the UP Power Company, you will find that the roads may have a "You are traveling at your own risk" sign. Don’t stop! Continue on to catch your limit of delicious Walleyed Pike at Victoria Lake.