Great Lakes Drought

-- Last Updated: Jul-16-12 3:58 PM EST --

Are people in states surrounding the Great Lakes also
experiencing really, really low water levels on their
local rivers, scraping boats, getting grounded ?

It's pretty bad here in SouthEastern Michigan
on the Huron, Shiawassee and Clinton rivers.
Temps lately in the high 90's with little rain.

here in CT.
the answer is yes. I’m poling if anything on the river lately, and that’s gotten pretty easy with the low flow.

My kayaking friends who are much more enthusiastic about paddling than me are chasing dam releases from Maine to Pa. this year. I think we had much higher than normal levels the preceding three years, but this is pretty much a flatwater paddle/whitewater poling season. Fortunately I no longer “live to paddle”, and have taken to mountain and road bicycling 3-4 times a week. At least with riding, when the level drops, that’s a GOOD thing lol.

If you havent

– Last Updated: Jul-16-12 5:11 PM EST –

If you havent seen this site just look at the swath of red and dark red in this map.

Bad times for a lot of the central US.

The colors make it easy to see where the rain has been falling.

Upper Delaware between NY and PA
The gauge has been at 3 feet for months now.

Low water

– Last Updated: Jul-16-12 7:36 PM EST –

I drove I80/90 from South Dakota to Mass last week. Every time I crossed a river I'd try to get a look at it. I was amazed at how many sandbars I saw from the highway, especially in the Indiana/Ohio area.

Different story here.
I was just going to say that the water levels here in MN seem pretty standard, and actually are dropping to their normal levels.

But that’s apparent from the map mcimes posted…

Last weekend…
I went down to Illinois to see, and paddle with, some very old friends of mine. In Jan. he’d called and said he wanted to paddle it again for old times sake and take his son. I hadn’t been on that river since 1978. I’ll do a trip report later, but the river was WAY lower than I remember it. I soloed it on the first day before Jim arrived and had to get out twice. Three times on the second day with the group, but I took a couple of islands on the less likely side just to see if they’d “go.” One didn’t. But every couple hundred yards I was picking my way through little channels that if I’d been a foot left or right, I’d have been stuck. Everyone else I saw out there was getting stuck. Not that its the end of the world if you do, of course.

Got back and happened to chat with the owner of the riverside campground we stayed at… and that I remember paddling past when I was a kid on my way to an island to camp on. The guy’s been at that camp, on that river, for 62 years. Born there and never left. A real river rat if ever there was one.

He says its the lowest he’s ever seen it. That’s a mouthful. Later I talked to a bar owner in the nearest town who says he walked his canoe a dozen times in the six mile stretch just upstream from where I put in. After hearing that I was darned glad I didn’t try for the 18 mile run I’d originally planned on but thought better of because of the 90 deg heat and high humidity.

The river I paddle here at home is running at 3,000 some odd cfs. Last year when we did it in August (normally lower at that time) it was over 20,000. I think the only reason my home waters aren’t worse is that the river is 450 miles long and the upper end is getting some of that rain that MN has been getting.

But if you think its tough being a paddler in drought, be glad you aren’t a farmer. There will be some that lose it all this year…

little change in the great lakes
The great lakes are at a ten-year low but have been hovering at this level for the last five or six years. Little change if any from last year, which surprised me a bit.

Water flow into Great Lakes

– Last Updated: Jul-17-12 10:53 AM EST –

Landmass around the Great Lakes funnels water into them.
Variation from one year won't be real significant.

Low Water Datum (LWD)or Chart Datum is probably easiest
observed on the relatively shallow Lake St. Clair.

Because of movement of the earths crust, the "datum"
or elevation reference system used to define water levels,
gets "adjusted" every 25 to 35 years. Many charts refer
back to 1985, so I guess we are due for new info.

Crustal movement also known as Isostatic Rebound
is the gradual rising or "bouncing back" of the earths
crust from the weight of the glaciers that covered
the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River region
during the last ice age.

No one like walking a boat in shallow water,
it becomes tedious to reach that shuttle vehicle
to get back home again.

yeah, inland lakes are bad
The great lakes typically need a few years to show losses. What’s a bit concerning is that the recharge cycle has changed in recent times.

I’m in SE MI also and it’s getting really bad. Rivers are down, lakes have more “beach”, and even big trees are starting to show dieback, and they’re usually the last to show any sign of drought.

Looks like some rivers in the WNW of
the lower peninsula might be OK. Manastee, Muskegon, maybe the Pine.

We’ll be in the SW corner next week, and all I expect is to paddle around the inlet of the Galien. But we may drive up through lower Michigan to Canada afterward, and if there’s time, check out the Manistee or maybe the Pine.

One thing I learned during frequent visits to Louisiana bayous is that streams that aren’t shoal-ley can have very low flow and still be deep and obstruction free. For whitewater rivers, I want at least 250 cfs, better 300, for smaller streams, more for larger. But a bayou or a smooth, low gradient river can have a flow of less than 100 cfs in summer, maybe even less than 50, and still be ok.