Needle dam

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A manually operated needle dam-type weir near Revin on the Meuse, France Revin Meuse weir 20041230- 024.jpg
A manually operated needle dam-type weir near Revin on the Meuse, France
Needle dam in the Reuss in Lucerne, Switzerland Reuss River needle dam.jpg
Needle dam in the Reuss in Lucerne, Switzerland
Needle dam near Louisa, KY in the United States Needle dam louisa ky.jpg
Needle dam near Louisa, KY in the United States

A needle dam is a weir designed to maintain the level or flow of a river through the use of thin "needles" of wood. The needles are leaned against a solid frame and are not intended to be water-tight. Individual needles can be added or removed by hand to constrict the flow of the river, forming a sluice.

Weir barrier across a river designed to alter its flow characteristics

A weir or low head dam is a barrier across the width of a river that alters the flow characteristics of water and usually results in a change in the height of the river level. There are many designs of weir, but commonly water flows freely over the top of the weir crest before cascading down to a lower level.

Sluice A water channel controlled at its head by a gate

A sluice is a water channel controlled at its head by a gate. A mill race, leet, flume, penstock or lade is a sluice channelling water toward a water mill. The terms sluice, sluice gate, knife gate, and slide gate are used interchangeably in the water and wastewater control industry.

One early needle dam maintains the level of Lake Lucerne in Lucerne, Switzerland by restricting the flow of the Reuss, several are still in operation on the Meuse, France and others were built in the United States in the 19th century.

Lake Lucerne lake at Lucerne, Switzerland

Lake Lucerne is a lake in central Switzerland and the fourth largest in the country.

Reuss (river) river in Switzerland

The Reuss is a river in Switzerland. With a length of 164 kilometres (102 mi) and a drainage basin of 3,426 square kilometres (1,323 sq mi), it is the fourth largest river in Switzerland. The upper Reuss forms the main valley of the canton of Uri. The course of the lower Reuss runs from Lake Lucerne to the confluence with the Aare at Brugg and Windisch.

Meuse river in western Europe

The Meuse or Maas is a major European river, rising in France and flowing through Belgium and the Netherlands before draining into the North Sea from the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt delta. It has a total length of 925 km.

The first needle dam in the United States was completed in 1896 on the Big Sandy River, downstream from the city of Louisa, Kentucky.

Louisa, Kentucky City in Kentucky, United States

Louisa is a home rule-class city located at the merger of the Levisa and Tug Forks into the Big Sandy River. It is located in Lawrence County, Kentucky, in the United States and is the seat of its county. The population was 2,467 at the 2010 census.

A similar approach, now known as paddle and rymer weirs, was used since medieval times on the River Thames in England to create flash locks. [1]

River Thames river in southern England

The River Thames, known alternatively in parts as the Isis, is a river that flows through southern England including London. At 215 miles (346 km), it is the longest river entirely in England and the second longest in the United Kingdom, after the River Severn.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north-northwest. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea lies to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Flash lock A gate in the flow of a river which could be opened to allow boats through

Early locks were designed with a single gate, known as a flash lock or staunch lock. The earliest European references to what were clearly flash locks were in Roman times.


  1. Paddle and Rymer Weirs on the Thames, OA Library, retrieved 2011-09-28

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