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Red River of the North at Grand Forks, North Dakota - 129 Years

05082500 Red River of the North at Grand Forks, North Dakota - 129 Years

Red River of the North in Grand Forks, ND
Red River of the North in Grand Forks, ND by the Sorlie Bridge, April 2, 2009.(Public domain.)

1858 Minnesota becomes a state.

1881 City of Grand Forks incorporated.

1882 Streamgage established by U.S. Engineers (later known as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers).

1889 North Dakota becomes a state.

1892 Staff and chain streamgages moved onto Northern Pacific Railway bridge.

1897 First major flood recorded on April 10 - 2nd largest stage 50.20 feet(ft) recorded to date.

1901 Station established on Northern Pacific Railway bridge by Charles M. Hall.

  • May 24 – First discharge measurement made by C.M. Hall.1933Continuous water level recorder installed.

1937 February, Lowest daily flow of 2.4 cubic feet per second(cfs).

1977 September 2 – Lowest daily flow of 1.8 cfs recorded due to repair of Riverside dam.

1982 Gage in operation for 100 years.1984Streamgage moved near Sorlie bridge.

1995 Real-time data capability started in June.

1997 Highest daily flow on record recorded on April 18 of approximately 137,000 cfs with a stage of 52.04 ft. On April 22 the peak of record stage was 54.35 ft.

2004 Streamgage moved to North Dakota side of Sorlie Bridge inside a pumping station.

2011 The highest peak stage for this year and third highest on record was 49.86 feet on April 14. Discharge for this stage was 87,500 cubic feet per second.



Early versions of streamflow measuring equipment
Early versions of streamflow measuring equipment used at this streamgage.(Water-Supply Paper No. 64 Pl.1 Pg. 20A)

The Red River of the North (Red River) at Grand Forks, ND streamgage was established in 1882 by the U.S. Engineers (currently the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers). On May 26, 1901, an additional station was added above the original streamgage by Charles M. Hall, a professor of Geology at North Dakota Agricultural College. Hall's original intent for the streamgage was to study possible storage of Red River flood waters for power, irrigational, and domestic supply purposes. Today, this streamgage has continuous record of streamgage height, discharge, stream velocity, and water quality parameters as well as real-time web data. Frequent flooding has been an issue for the Red River of the North at Grand Forks, ND, most notably the major floods of 1882, 1897, 1950, 1996, 1997, 2006, and 2009. Frequent flooding of the Red River is why Grand Forks streamgage data is essential to flood protection for the cities of Grand Forks, ND and East Grand Forks,MN. Data from this streamgage may be obtained from the USGS NWISWeb page.

In 1997, flooding in the area around Grand Forks–East Grand Forks caused temporary dikes to fail in Grand Forks on April 18 and then in East Grand Forks on April 19. The breaching of the dikes and overland flooding cause city officials to evacuate people from both cities. Nearly the entire population of Grand Forks (over 50,000 people) and about 75% of the population of East Grand Forks (about 6,000 people) were moved to a nearby air force base in North Dakota and a small university in nearby Crookston, Minnesota. Many folks from both cities sought refuge in nearby towns. This was the largest evacuation of citizens in the United States since the evacuation of residents in Atlanta, Georgia during the Civil War. It would not be until the evacuation of residents in the southern coastal areas of the US during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 that this number would be eclipsed. Total damages for the Red River flooding were between $3.5–$4 billion dollars. (1997 Red River flood accessed on March 29, 2011 at: (Shelby, Ashley; Red River Rising)

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Grand Forks, ND
USGS employees at work in Grand Forks, ND, March 5, 2009.