Menomonie, Wisconsin History/yangj28

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Lower-side view of the Tainter gate in Menomonie, WI

The Tainter gate is a type floodgate used for dams. The design was created by Jeremiah Burnham Tainter. The original design was patented by Thomas Parker on April 13th, 1880[1] but was officially built in 1886. The idea came to Tainter when he wanted to create a water control device to be used on the Red Ceder River. The floodgate would control water levels and help move logs down stream to the Chippewa River and Dunnville. The Tainter gate design has been very successful and is still used today. There are currently 321 Tainter gates being used in the upper basin of the Mississippi River.

Tainter Gate[edit]

Side view of Tainter gate in Menomonie, WI. Notice the distinct design of the Tainter gate arms on the inside of each section.


Jeremiah B. Tainter simply redesigned a basic but clumsy floodgate that was originally developed in the east. His floodgate was designed to use an arm like gate that can be lifted to control the water level using chains. Today we use gearboxes or electric motors to power the gate. Tainter’s idea of the floodgate had become such popular design for dams that it is used very often today as water control dams for the Upper Mississippi River, the Columbia River Basin, including the Bonneville and Grand Coulee dams. The floodgate is also being used around the world such as Switzerland, Italy and many other countries.

Uses of the Tainter gate[edit]

Tainter's had designed the floodgate to open while releasing a rush of water that would carry lumber down to Dunnville and the larger part of the Chippewa River. Today the Tainter gate now applies to what dams are made for: flood suppression, irrigation, human consumption, industrial use, aquaculture, and navigability.

Jeremiah Burnham Tainter[edit]


Jeremiah B. Tainter was never seen as one of the popular siblings. He often hid in his older, and more successful brother, Andrew Tainter. However, he had many ideas when designing water control devices. At the age of 26, Tainter came to Menomonie and worked in the Knapp, Stout mills. While working as a millwright, he wanted a way to release enough water to help workers move lumber from his company’s territory to Dunnville and the Chippewa River. By doing some surveying around the town, he eventually came to the conclusion of creating a gate to open up and let a rush of water strong enough to carry the logs down stream, “...he cleverly designed it so that the rush of water helped both to open and to close the gates with a minimum of manpower”.[2]

Jeremiah B. Tainter was known for many things because of his popularity, however, the Tainter gate will always honor his name today by still being a popular design for a floodgate.

External Links[edit]

Tainter Gate

Jeremiah Burnham Tainter

Tainter Gate History


  1. Parker, T. (1880). U.S. Patent No. US226455 A. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  2. Lynch, L., & Russell, J. (Eds.). (n.d.). Where the wild rice grows. Menomonie, WI: Menomonie Sesquicentennial Committee.