Fish are happy with dam removal!

Okay, so most of the dams on the Red River have been modified, not removed. Both accomplish the same thing: fish are able to move freely up and down the river, as are canoeists, kayakers, and boaters. Its a win-win situation, and the threat of being caught in a drowning machine is eliminated. I’m posting a link sent to me by C.U.R.E. (Clean Up the River Environment), a group working in the Minnesota River Watershed. The dam in Montevideo was removed earlier this month, check out the pics to see how it was done!

Wahpeton River Festival and River of Dreams Canoe Launch

About 200 fourth grade students from different schools in Wahpeton, ND and the surrounding area participated in the River Festival and Canoe Launch on May 9th, 2012. The event was organized by the Wahpeton Parks and Recreation and Chahinkapa Zoo to give children the opportunity to learn about the amazing Red River of the North.  Science clinics offered to each school concentrated on the wonderful world of water such as the ‘Web of life’, ‘River crime lab’, and ‘Incredible journey’.  Steve Stark’, an award-winning cartoonist, told the children entertaining stories about the history of the Red River while drawing pictures at the same time on giant rolls of paper.

14 inch cedar canoe Continue reading

Reforesting the Red

Trees and rivers, a good combination…”strategically planting trees along the Red River creates a buffer, maintains river bank stability, encourages growth of native plants, improves water quality (Fargo-Moorhead’s drinking water source) and provides habitat for wildlife.”

Join River Keepers on May 22nd and help them plant 1500 trees and shrubs! Contact for more information and to volunteer!

The Red Rive Basin Riparian Project is a project available to help landowners with technical and financial advice in regards to their lands adjacent to rivers, or riparian. Below is a Google Earth view of a well forested river between Neche and Pembina, ND.

As one drives along in the valley it is often quite easy to see where the rivers are based on the trees visible on the horizon. Anyone who has spent time on these waters also knows that rivers are alive, and move.

In their movement they eventually take  some trees along with the soil, particularly at high flows. Since the high flows are often made worse by humans, it’s a good thing to help out the health of our streams by planting new trees and shrubs along the river edges. This is also a good time to remind ourselves that if you live on a river, take care where you place your home, and be responsible about what you do on the land. Mowing to the rivers edge, and clearing the trees for a ‘view’ will most certainly get you an upclose view down the road. Rivers move – check out the old oxbows and paths this stream once took in the not so distant past.

We can control how we live with rivers, and it may behoove us to consider learning more about them without assuming that we can just make them go where we want.

Want to become a stream or lake monitor?

Forwarding on a message I received in my email today – the MPCA’s request for volunteer monitors….

Volunteers needed to monitor the health of Minnesota lakes and streams

St. Paul, Minn. — Do you live near a lake or stream in Minnesota, or visit one regularly? If so, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) needs your help! Join more than 1,500 Minnesotans who track the health of their favorite lake or stream through the Citizen Lake or Citizen Stream Monitoring Programs.

These volunteers measure water clarity in their lake or stream weekly throughout the summer months, using simple equipment provided by the MPCA. Water clarity, or transparency, is an important indicator of the health of a lake or stream. The MPCA uses water clarity data to track water quality trends and make decisions on watershed protection and restoration. For some lakes and streams, data collected by volunteers is the only data available, making this work very valuable.

Some volunteers have participated in the MPCA’s water monitoring program for over 30 years. Long-term volunteers report that monitoring has given them a new way of learning about the lake or stream they love, and volunteers enjoy sharing their knowledge with neighbors who also care about clean water.

To become a volunteer or learn more about the program, visit the MPCA’s website, or call 651-296-6300 (Twin Cities) or 800-657-3864 (Greater Minnesota).

Meandering for health

Here in the Red River Valley, channelization of streams, or the digging of ditches, has allowed agriculture to expand over the past 100 plus years. Much of the land in the valley, especially in the lowest, flattest part of the basin, was wetland or wet meadows. Draining the water off of the land made it plowable, and productive and changed.

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” (John Muir, an American Environmentalist). And so it is with rivers, ditches and wetlands. Our desire to remove water from the land has increased the magnitude and occurrence of flooding in the Red River Valley. The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy has put together an 8 minute video titled: Slowing Red River Flooding that explores how restoring channelized streams to meandering streams can increase wildlife habitat, improve water quality and reduce the impacts of floods.

You can find this video and other information on the Red River Watershed Management Board (RRWMB) website.March 13 and 14th the RRWMB and the Red River Basin Flood Damage Reduction Work Group will hold their joint annual conference   at the Courtyard by Marriott & Conference Center in Moorhead. Go to the website for more info or email .

From drowning dam to cool kayak fun

Four hundred miles of the Red River are now reconnected for fish habitat and drowning due to low head dams has now been eliminated(the Midtown Dam in Fargo had a drowning every two years since it was built), thanks to fisheries and water managers in North Dakota and Minnesota.

Hickson Rapids

Christine Rapids


Modifying low head dams on the Red River does three things:  1) provides fish passage through each site at all flows by reconnecting upstream Red River mainstem and tributary habitats with mainstem and tributary habitats downstream, 2) eliminates the life-threatening hydraulic rollers below each dam, and 3) provides higher quality canoeing, kayaking and angling opportunities. For more on this story go to Minnesota Public Radio or view the story done by the Grand Forks Herald.

Wondering about those fish in the river? Check out the Red River Anglers Guide.

LiDAR in the Red River Valley

So, I’ve been playing around with a tool that is now available on-line, showing elevation profiles, among other things, in the Red River Valley. In the flattest corner of the state, the difference in elevation across the basin is relatively low. Most elevation tools measure elevation contours at 5 or 10 foot intervals. LiDAR (or Light Detection and Ranging) uses  integration of airborne laser and global position system (GPS) technology to measure difference in elevation of just 2 feet!  A real plus in the Red River Valley where elevation in some areas varies less than 5 feet. How’s it done? Laser pulses are directed at the earth’s surface (early spring or late fall) from equipment aboard an aircraft flying a predetermined grid over an area of interest. The laser reflections are recorded and the range is calculated from the instrument’s orientation in space and the time required for the laser’s light reflection to travel back to the airplane. Examples below of the profile data.


The graph above was made from two original elevation profiles. The blue line is the elevation profile from Detroit Lakes to the Red River (taken as a straight line) and the red line is the elevation profile from Roseau to the Red River. Note that the Red River itself is dropping as it moves north, being at an elevation around 900 feet west of DL, and dropping nearly 100 feet when it gets west of Roseau. Detroit Lakes itself is at an elevation several hundred feet higher than Roseau.

The two profiles above are taken directly from the profile maker on the LiDAR website located at Creating a profile is easy, go ahead, play with it and see what new information you learn!

As we zoom in on locations, we can see more detail in the profile. Below is a profile of the elevation from Manvel, ND to the Red River – a distance of about 3.1 miles. The drop is only a foot or two, until you get to the Red River itself. The first big dip is where the transect crossed the South Marais River, the second is the Red River.

The LiDAR Viewer is a project of the Red River Basin Decision Information Network ( and was developed by the International Water Institute (

Day-dreaming about water


Okay, so its school break for students, both college and K-12, so let’s take a vacation of sorts! This blog is dedicated to water education, but water education isn’t just about reading and learning about water issues. We must invite other senses in…water is something to be touched, viewed, tasted (carefully) and listened too. We should always find time to immerse our senses in water, immersing our souls into forms of understanding that defy being written down in a book. So many experiences with water – and describing them only with words can get incredibly boring and at the same time, challenging. So, my challenge to you is to share your stories of water, including a photo with the location and short description of the experience. Send your water experience to me at I will compile them and figure out a way to present them back in a collated manner. Meanwhile, look before as I share a few of mine…

Unnamed (unknown) river in Wisconsin, flowing out of Rice Lake. This dam of rocks was created to increase water levels in the lake in order to more easily harvest wild rice. This boy was looking under rocks for creatures. Warm fall day, gorgeous weather.


Turtle River in Minnesota during the fall. A brisk day, stayed out of the water, but sat on the bridge and listened to it roll over the rocks. Clear, clear water. Note that this is another dam modification – 3 tiers of rocks gradually building up to the top of the dam (located under the walkway).


Hard to see the water, but this was one time where I probably was as close to the water as you can get, without being in it! Harvesting wild rice on an unnamed northern Minnesota lake – actually, the name of the lake is Long lake – good luck, there are over a 100 Long lakes in Minnesota! The water is close enough to cool the hands when they get tired from knocking.


One last one, and appropriately for a Minnesotan, a fishing picture. Why live on a lake when you are surrounded by them and can pick a different one every day for two months, without driving more than 45 minutes? Hot summer days, cool summer water.

Wars over water…

We don’t have to look very far to see disagreements on how we handle our water. Flooding, diversion and tiling are all topics that show up with regularity in the Valley. Sometimes looking at what is happening in other parts of the world can help us gain perspective on our own water use and water issues. Such is the case with the Jordan River, a source of water, and tension, between Israel and Palestine. The Jordan River disappears less than 3 kilometers from where it starts in the Sea of Galilee, leaving once vibrant fields of green dry and desolate.

“To Israel, it is a resource to be captured, controlled, and carefully doled out—a common good, best managed by the state. For most Palestinian farmers, it’s nature’s bounty—to be divvied up in the way of their forefathers. One culture invented drip irrigation; the other relies heavily on flood agriculture. One is investing billions in state-of-the-art desalination plants; the other can barely keep its government together.” – Stephan Faris, Orion Magazine

Having access to water is the difference between life and death. The war of 1967, or the Six Day war between Jordan, Syria and Israel, is considered by some to be the first modern “water war.” Water conflict is not just a Middle East issue however. Water conflict has a long history in the U.S., particularly in the west, where it continues today. We may not be fighting wars over it, but we are seeing litigation, law suits and legislation trying to set the boundaries for water use within our own borders. We all need clean water, and somehow we are going to have to figure out a way to manage our water for the benefit of everyone. For more on the Jordan River story, check out this link

For additional links to water issues in the U.S. check out Aquafornia (California’s water website), Colorado River District, Florida, Georgia and Alabama and their Tri-State Water Wars.

Troubled Waters

I started out this morning as I am guessing many of us do…going through my emails. I received one from the Freshwater society advertising an upcoming speaker, Fred Kirschenmann, a national leader in the organic food and farming movement. What caught my eye was the title of his lecture, “Water and the Challenges Facing U.S. and World Agriculture in the 21st Century.” A topic of extreme importance for most of us in the valley, whether we farm or not. Water, especially clean water, is important to us all.

Fred is described as a philosopher, farmer, author and advocate. He is a distinguished fellow at Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. His lecture is free and open to the public, however registration is recommended. Sponsored by the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences and the Freshwater Society, the lecture is at 7 pm on Thursday, Nov. 10, in the theater of the Student Center on the university’s St. Paul campus.

CHECK THIS OUT – (sorry for the shout, but I wanted to make sure you read down this far)…to see a new resource I discovered. Granted, its been out since 2010, but this is the first I heard of it. I did watch the entire 26 minutes, which wasn’t hard…I just tend to hop from one thing to the next….but I wanted to know whether or not this was something I would promote. And yes, I would. Perfect for the classroom, meeting, or even individual watching. It says a lot about our disconnect with water, through the mouths of regular people like you and me. Although filmed in Iowa, it has a broad application. The focus is on our human relationship with rivers.

Troubled Waters viewable at

another, longer film which has just been released by Iowa Learning Farms is Out to the Lake, exploring water quality and peoples personal relationship with their local lake or water body. Both of these videos and additional videos and resources are found on the Iowa Extension website Iowa Learning Farms. Classroom enhancement activities to accompany the videos and additional links for the classroom on water, soil and wetlands are also available.