Pelican River restoration dates to first ‘fishway’ project at Dunton Locks, in 2001

The history of dam modification projects in the Pelican River Watershed is illustrated with this map.

The Pelican Rapids dam removal is part of a long-range plan to restore the Pelican River to a natural flow. This map shows the various dams that have been modified or removed. 

The Pelican city dam is one of only three remaining on the Pelican River watershed, from Becker County to the north to Fergus Falls. 

The Bucks Mill Dam near Lake Melissa is a pending project, and talks have been underway on river restoration at the Elizabeth Dam site, south of Pelican. 

While the dam removal in Pelican city hasn’t been popular among all citizens, the DNR, as well as federal agencies, and conservation groups, have favored dam removal where possible. Dam obstructions impact wildlife habitat and prohibit aquatic species from moving up and downstream. 

The removal of all dams on the Pelican would recreate nearly 100 miles of natural, unobstructed river flow. 

Note the Fish Lake, Prairie Lake, and Lizzie dam modifications, which were completed between 2018 and 2020. 

The river restoration projects actually date back more than 20 years, with the Dunton locks fishway created in 2001, and the Shoreham fishway in 2004.