St. Croix River basin drops into drought

Abnormally hot and dry weather is creating unusually low water levels.




2 minute read

Rock Island near Franconia, June 8, 2023 (Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360)

Much of Minnesota and Wisconsin have dropped into drought in the past several days. As of this week’s release of the National Drought Monitor, the entire St. Croix River watershed is now notably dry. The river has responded by rapidly dropping in water levels.

From the National Drought Monitor:

“Unusually warm temperatures, reaching or exceeding 9 degrees above normal in large portions of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, also contributed to worsening dryness. Large-scale additions and expansions of abnormal dryness and moderate drought occurred, especially along and east of the Mississippi River and in central Minnesota, where the combination of precipitation deficits, low streamflow and declining soil moisture was most prevalent.”

As the climate has dried up, river flows have been reduced. The St. Croix is now well below its average for this time of year, measuring just 2,690 cubic feet per second as of this publication. That’s about half the average level for early June.

Over the next week, the river at Stillwater is forecast to drop about eight more inches, bottoming out at 675.6 feet above sea level. That would put it within half a foot of some of the lowest levels in the record books.

Weather forecasts don’t offer much hope for improvement in the immediate future. The National Weather Service says it expects rainfall to remain below normal throughout June, although it is “typically one of the wetter months of the year. As a result, current areas of drought should persist or intensify.”

The silver lining is for swimmers: water temperatures are now above 70 degrees. With plentiful sandbars and beaches, and more hot weather to come, the St. Croix will be a good place to cool off. Of course, warm water could also hurt some fish species, and also possibly lead to blooms of algae.


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St. Croix River basin drops into drought