Altona Dam

Location: Mecosta County

Project Status: Current


The Little Muskegon River is a 44-mile-long tributary of the Muskegon River. It originates near the village of Mecosta, then combines with the Canadian Lakes drainage, before traveling downstream through Morley to converge with the Muskegon River at Croton Pond. In the late 1860s, a dam was built at the Altona site to support hydro-mechanical sawmill and flour mill use. The community of Altona developed at the site. The site was not converted to hydroelectric use because of insufficient head, but it was later hardened with concrete and served as a river crossing road for many years until being closed by the Mecosta Road Commission for public safety. The remains of the structure adversely impact the river’s habitat quality and presents a serious public safety hazard.

While most of the dam’s head has been reduced by the removal of the old stop-log structures, about two feet of head remains. This is enough to block upstream movement of small fish and reduce streamflow velocity. Sediment deposit, both upstream and downstream of the dam, widens the stream channel. The sediment also covers gravel substrate that is important for fish habitat and results in more sunlight absorption that raises stream temperature and adversely impacts cool and cold-water fish species.






Removing high-risk dams across the State and undersized culverts in the Muskegon River watershed has been a priority for several years, but more emphasis has been placed on removal of failing and derelict dams because of the dam failure in Midland, as well as the recent hydro fleet retirement announcement from Consumers Energy. Large-scale funding opportunities are more readily available than in the past that are targeted at increasing public safety while improving the overall health of watershed environments. Muskegon River Watershed Assembly started working with partners in 2020 to secure grant funds to initiate the design phase for the Altona Dam removal and river restoration. Removing the dam will reconnect 15 miles of upstream river channel and 3 miles downstream, restore a natural river channel in place of the large scour pool, stabilize adjacent streambanks, and provide access to those wishing to reach the river’s edge, paddle, or fish.