Although there have been dams on the Wisconsin River since at least the 1840s, the turn of the 20th century saw a surge in the number of hydro projects being created up and down the Wisconsin River Valley. After seeing the success of the famous Niagara Falls dam in 1889, many communities across the United States saw hydro dams as the answer to their problems. It did not take long for this hydromania to travel up the Wisconsin River. By harnessing flowing water, a community could capture the power of a river and turn it into cheap and easy electricity. This could be used to power everything from lights and electric streetcars to equipment to help make sawmills and mining operations more efficient. By 1907, the Wisconsin River was generating three times the horsepower equivalent it had in 1880. But these dams were all operating independently, and the lack of coordination had been a source of frustration and difficulty for businesses operating further downriver. Gates on dams were routinely opened each Friday, to allow water to flow downstream (since they didn’t need it for the weekend). This caused flooding downriver. On Sundays, in preparation for the return to operations for the week, dam operators would hold back water, which made it difficult for mills down the line—and meant they might need to suspend operations until the water returned. With the increasing reliance on hydroelectric power generated for communities across Wisconsin, it would be important to find a way to control the flow of the Wisconsin River. To address this, a group of leaders from across the Wisconsin River Valley successfully lobbied the state to take action. The result was the creation of the Wisconsin Valley Improvement Company in 1907. WVIC would step in and take over running the dams as a private company. WVIC began as a group of 16 smaller dams from the logging era, but over the next 25 years it would acquire another 10 facilities that were built or rebuilt in the Wisconsin River Valley. The total capacity of the system had reached a staggering 15.6 million cubic feet of water. Hydromania is not as widespread now as it was a century ago. Although there was indeed great potential in the “white coal” in the Wisconsin River, hydroelectric dams turned out to be insufficient to meet the explosion in demand for electricity in the 20th century. The WVIC continues to operate the dams along the Wisconsin River, which they proudly refer to as “the hardest working river in the nation.”