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History of the Lake

Originally Lake Orono was a millpond, formed by damming the Elk River as it flowed through farmland. The first dam was built in 1851 by Ard Godfrey, prominent in the lumber and milling industry in St. Anthony, and John C. Jamieson to provide power for a sawmill and a feedmill. A small town grew near this site and was named Orono after Jamieson's hometown in Maine.

In 1916, a new dam was built slightly north of the original, and increased the reservoir significantly. Sixty-two years later, the Dept. of Natural Resources ordered the lake lowered because of the dam's poor condition. In 1980, this dam was rebuilt.

For a historical tour of the lake, download our Heritage Tour and map.

To purchase a book that includes this early history, please see History of Elk River, by Debra J. Mortenson.

More recently, the lake had been filling in with sediment where the Elk enters on the northwest end, making that section unnavigable. With volunteer time from citizens, research, and cooperation between agencies, the lake was dredged in 1998.

For more information on the dredging, please see Dredging.

Heritage Tour photo
LOIA gave educational
pontoon rides for Elk River's
Heritage Festival

CEP Art & Design

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