Great Lakes Water Level – Trending Down

Bill’s Blog

Posted: Oct 31, 2020 / 03:52 AM EDT Updated: Oct 31, 2020 / 03:52 AM EDT

This awesome fall color pic. is a drone shot of Lake Michigan and the shore at peak color from Jack Martin. It’s worth checking out his pics. here.

The water levels on the Great Lakes have gone down a bit – as they often do in mid-fall. It’s been cool in the Western Lakes and there has been a lot of early-season snow in Upper Michigan, where Marquette has had the snowiest October ever. They’ve had at least a trace of snow on 18 of the first 30 days of the month, a record 22.1″ total. Over the last two weeks, Marquette has been 9.7 degrees colder than average.

Mount Ripley

This was Mt. Ripley, near Houghton earlier in the week. At one point, they had 10″ of snow on the ground. Marquette has had 6.23″ of precipitation this month of October – that’s 2.5″ above average. They’ve had 41.58″ for the year and that’s nearly a foot (11.76″) above average. The high precipitation totals have been by far the primary reason for the high lake levels this last few years.

Graph of the Water Level of the Great Lakes 1918-present

Over the last 5-6 years, above average precipitation has brought lake levels to quite high levels – not quite as high as the record highest (1986 for most of the lakes).

The water level of Lake Superior is down 2″ in the last month and down 6″ in the last year (a nice drop). The level is still 8″ above the October average level, but 7″ below the October highest level that occurred in 1985.

The water level of Lake(s) Michigan/Huron is down 2″ in the last month and down 1″ in the last year. It’s still 31″ above the October average level, but…it’s now 10″ lower than the highest lake level which was in October 1986.

The water level of Lake Erie is down 2″ in the last month (nice). It is at the same level as one year ago and is now 24″ above the average October level. It’s 9″ below the highest ever recorded level, back in Oct. 1986.

The water level of Lake Ontario is down 4″ in the last month and down 15″ in the last year. The lake is only 2″ above the October average level and is 22″ below the record highest October level set in 1945.

The water level of Lake St. Clair is down 2″ in the last month and down 2″ in the last year. The lake is 28″ above the October record level, but it’s also 9″ below the October record level set in 1986.

Hydroelectric Power Plant on the St. Mary’s River near Ste. S. Marie – from Wikipedia

This is a hydroelectric plant on the St. Mary’s River near S. Ste. Marie. President William Howard Taft visited the plant in 1911. The power canal and hydroelectric plant were together named a Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1983. Although the hydroelectric plant could generate as much as 25-30 megawatts if operating at full capacity, grid planners rate it at 18 MW.

The rivers that connect the Great Lakes all have above average flow. Saturday AM (30th) the St. Mary’s River at Ste. S. Marie had a flow of 98,000 cubic feet per second. The St. Clair River at Port Huron had a flow of 257,000, compared to an average flow of 187,000. The Detroit River at Detroit had a flow of 272,000 cfs, compared to an average flow of 194,000 cfs.

The Grand River at Grand Rapids had a flow of 3,050 cfs, compared to an average flow of 2,140 cfs. The Muskegon River at Croton had a flow of 1,580 cfs, compared to an average flow of 1,600 cfs. The Kalamazoo River at Comstock had a flow of 1,050 cfs, compared to an average flow of 720 cfs. The St. Joseph River at Niles had a flow of 2,320 cfs, compared to an average flow of 2,310 and the Tittawabassee River at Midland had a flow of 1,150 cfs, compared to an average flow of 875 cfs. In Wisconsin, the Fox River at Green Bay WI had a flow of 7,460 cfs, compared to an average flow of 3,790 cfs.

The water temp. of Lake Michigan at Holland St. Park early Sat. AM was 49. The water temp. at the Ludington buoy was 46 and the water temp. of the mid-Lake Michigan buoy was 50. Inland Reeds Lake had a water temp. of 49.