Spring Rains Needed To Open Gravel Bars On North Shore

A crescent-shaped gravel bar lies just outside the mouth of the Lester River in Duluth. Gravel bars formed at several North Shore stream mouths after last summer’s flooding. (News Tribune file photo)

Last summer’s flooding has created large gravel bars that are blocking the mouths of several North Shore streams, say fisheries officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Don Schreiner, DNR Lake Superior area fisheries supervisor, inspected several streams between Duluth and Silver Bay this past week.

“We’ve seen this before, and it has happened especially when we’ve seen low lake levels,” Schreiner said. “It creates a larger beach area. When the waves from Lake Superior come in, it has more potential to pile up rock and rubble.”

Lake Superior’s level always drops during winter months. It has dropped 10 inches since last July, according to the International Lake Superior Board of Control.

“We had the flood. Now we have the waves pushing in,” Schreiner said. “We have some pretty good bars at the mouths of some of the rivers.”

DNR officials are hoping that spring rains and subsequent runoff will open channels in those gravel bars, allowing trout to ascend streams for spawning.

“It’s not unusual that a few streams would get this way, but not to the extent we’ve seen it with the flood event,” Schreiner said. And we haven’t had any runoff to open those streams up a little bit. It might be a year when we don’t get fish up some of these streams.”

The DNR has used a backhoe to open a channel on the French River in the past. Access is easy there, Schreiner said, and the DNR counts on capturing Kamloops rainbow trout there for the following year’s stocking efforts. But it would be difficult to get heavy equipment near most stream mouths to open up the gravel bars, he said.

The gravel bars are more pronounced at streams from Duluth to Two Harbors, Schreiner said, than from Two Harbors on up the shore.