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Black River Lake boating access closed due to dam stoplog failure

The Black River Lake Dam control structure without stoplogs installed.
Michigan DNR
The Black River Lake Dam control structure without stoplogs installed.

The boat launch at Black River Lake in Gogebic County is closed indefinitely because of issues with the dam.

The Michigan DNR says it started receiving reports in late June of extremely low water levels at Black River Lake. It’s a remote reservoir about 10 miles southeast of Ironwood.

The dam on the northside of the lake is controlled by the DNR.

DNR Fisheries Division staff inspected the dam and found it experienced a partial failure.

Black River Lake as seen from the dam facing south. You can see the low water level and exposed bed.
Michigan DNR
Black River Lake as seen from the dam facing south. You can see the low water level and exposed bed.

One of the lower stoplogs broke, causing the lake to slowly drain.

“Upon inspecting the dam, it appeared the lower stoplog(s) failed, and that was the cause of the drainage. Upon further investigation of the downstream area below the dam, sediment was not observed to have washed into the floodplain or caused erosion of the streambanks, indicating that this was not a quick flooding event,” said Jennifer Johnson, DNR fisheries biologist. “During the site visit, I spoke with locals who described the impoundment as being 10-15 feet low over the course of three weeks. It is likely that the stoplog(s) completely failed around June 24 or 25, which coincided with a heavy rainstorm.”

The Black River Lake Dam is considered a “low hazard” dam, meaning a failure poses low risk to public safety, property and the environment.

Structurally, the remaining portions of the dam do not show any signs of instability. The dam was last inspected in August 2022 and rated in fair condition.

WXPR was told the dam was built in the 30s and has failed before.

The DNR removed the remaining stoplogs so the lake won’t refill.

The DNR and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy will assess the next steps.

Because there’s no water in the lake, the boat launch is closed.

The DNR is asking people to stay away from the area. The exposed lakebed is soft and people may get stuck.

Map showing the location of the failed dam on Black River Lake in Gogebic County.
Michigan DNR
Map showing the location of the failed dam on Black River Lake in Gogebic County.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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