Douglas County forestry panel adopts plan to improve Mooney boat launch

The project would alter the grade leading to the boat launch rather than moving it another area of the Mooney Dam Campground.
A sign highlights the Douglas County Forest, which is the state’s largest county forest, outside of the Douglas County Forestry Building in Solon Springs on Monday morning, Oct. 18, 2021.
Jed Carlson / File / Superior Telegram
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GORDON — The boat launch at Mooney Dam Campground will get some needed attention ahead of a proposed expansion of the campground itself.

The forestry, parks and recreation committee approved a plan to reduce the grade at the existing launch Monday, Dec. 19. The project would make it safer to launch boats at Mooney Dam.

The plan will go out for bid in March with construction to take place in the fall.

The project was born out of preliminary discussions of expanding the campground at Mooney Dam, said Jon Harris, forestry and natural resources director. The committee established the boat launch as an initial priority because with the existing boat launch it is difficult to back down the hill and there are blind spots that make the launch unsafe, he said.

The original plan was to move the launch from its current location to the east; however, the proposed location was not feasible because of the depth of the water, said Todd Gibbon, the project engineer hired by the county to design the project.


“When doing a boat launch typically you shoot for 4 feet of depth and you want to have that running at a 12-15% slope,” Gibbon said. “Four feet — most of our boat launches up here don’t hit that. A lot of them are in that 3-foot range. We were barely 2 feet deep by time we went 50 feet out.”

Gibbon said when it was determined the proposed location wouldn’t work, he looked at what it could be done to improve the existing launch. The turning radiuses in the area are the reason people back their boats to the launch from Fowlers Circle and with the 7% grade dropping to a 15% grade, causing the boat basically to disappear behind the driver, he said.

“The concept I came up with is to knock the hill off, take out that retaining wall, and regrade the whole area so you can pull through and have nice sight lines into the existing boat launch,” Gibbon said. He said it would create more consistent grades, so people don’t lose sight of their trailers. They will also be able to pull forward and back up in a straight line at the boat launch.

Gibbon said he also recommends paving the area with asphalt because a gravel boat launch would be a “maintenance nightmare.”

Gibbon estimated the cost of the project between $150,000 and $200,000.

“It would be cheaper than the original thought, which was replacing it,” said County Board Chair Mark Liebaert.

The design takes into consideration some residents have expressed about the project, Supervisor Joe Moen said. In a letter to committee members, Friends of the Eau Claire Lakes Area stated they were in favor of improving safety and traffic congestion at the existing boat launch but had concerns about the shallow depths and a loon nesting area near the proposed site for moving the launch.

The Douglas County Board will consider the plan when it meets Jan. 19.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or
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