Drought deepens across St. Croix River drainage

Dry conditions mean low water and other challenges.




2 minute read

Map produced by St. Croix 360 with data from the U.S. Drought Monitor
(National Drought Mitigation Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

The U.S. Drought Monitor released an update on conditions across the country this week. Dry weather and low water persist, including in the St. Croix River watershed.

Most of the 7,700-square mile region of Minnesota and Wisconsin drained by the St. Croix and its tributaries is in some form of official drought. The situation has worsened since the last update a month ago.

While “moderate drought” has pushed into the region, largely replacing “abnormally dry,” the Sunrise River watershed and surrounding area is now in “severe drought.”

The region received some rain this week, but it did not make a significant difference in water levels.

“Precipitation over the last 90 days has been only 25%–70% of normal in many areas of the Upper Midwest and Missouri River Basin,” according to the Drought Monitor. “Contributing to the dry conditions have been above-normal maximum temperatures over the last 30 days across the entire northern portion of the Central U.S., which have really played a role in further drying the surface.”

The National Park Service reports river levels are either “very low” or “extremely low” at all sites above the Soo Line High Bridge. Rangers checked the levels on July 15. The river is still generally navigable to small watercraft, but the agency notes dragging boats through shallow stretch may be necessary.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says it would “take at least three to five inches of precipitation spread over a period of about two weeks to significantly alleviate drought.”

But that’s not what is in the forecast. The next month in the watershed will probably be dry, with conditions expected to either continue or worsen.

The National Weather Service does not offer much hope for improvement in its latest forecast:

“This trend of hot temperatures and lack of precipitation unfortunately looks to continue until the end of the month, with the large scale pattern not looking to change,” agency meteorologists wrote.