Duluth’s Lester River No Longer Flowing Into Lake Superior As Drought Conditions Persist
Although there are some rain chances in the forecast for Friday and into the weekend, water levels on Duluth’s Lester River have dropped to a point where the mouth of the river has run dry.
It is not historically unheard of for streams and rivers running into Lake Superior to see their outlet into the big lake dry up from time to time. On some streams, it is a seasonal thing after spring snowmelt floods the creekbed to see things largely or completely dry up until a big rainfall later in the year. Larger streams, on the other hand, this is less common.
Aside from the St. Louis River, which is by far the biggest Lake Superior tributary in the area, Lester River is one of the larger and more visible waterways that stream into the big lake.
With a watershed area of 35.6 miles and a total of 60.7 miles of streams in the watershed, it has the greatest amount of water contributed to it of all of Duluth’s streams, creeks, and rivers (except for the St. Louis River).
That being said, if the Lester River quits flowing freely into Lake Superior (some water might still be trickling through the gravel below the surface of that gravel berm), it must be a dry year. Duluth is seeing one of the driest years on record, only a half an inch of total rainfall shy of the previous driest year on record through August 17, which was back in 1956.
Investigating the scene, water levels appear to be several inches below the gravel berm between what is left of the river and Lake Superior. You can see in one of the photos that someone appears to have tried to create a bit of a trench of sorts, though not completed at the time of this photo.
Further upstream, the water is still (barely) flowing in Lester Park. What is often a more prominent flow of water over a small waterfall just past the stone arch bridge between the parking lot and the picnic area is now just a small stream of water coming over the rocks.
The mouth of the Lester River has been a popular location for water-based recreation since the closure of Brighton Beach for work on the beach and roadway. With extra people in the area, nobody has reported this dry-up of the waterway heading into the lake until Wednesday, which suggests that it just happened today. With rain in the forecast, we’ll see if that will bring water levels back up to the point where the river and Lake Superior are reconnected.