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Drought causes Lake Harriet tributary, portion of Gooseberry Falls to dry up

Experts say some creek beds and waterfalls will stay dry until Minnesota gets more rain.

MINNEAPOLIS — There is no doubt about it, Minnesota is in the middle of a serious drought.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor more than half of the state is currently under severe drought conditions, with another 4% of Minnesota in an extreme drought.

If anything, you've probably noticed that your yard or the neighbor's lawn has turned a bit brown, but photos of a dry creek bed in Minneapolis really have people talking.

The tributary near 50th Street that runs from Lake Harriet to Minnehaha Creek has all but dried up, with the dry bottom clearly visible. That's because water levels at Lake Harriet are so low that there isn't enough to flow out of the lake and into the creek.

Staff with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board says things will stay this dry until we get more rain, and meteorologist Laura Betker says we'll need at least 2-5 inches of widespread rain over a two-week period to end the drought.

Conditions are also dry at the iconic Gooseberry Falls State Part in Two Harbors, Minnesota.

A photo from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shows the west side of the Lower Falls completely dried up. But the DNR says this is the smallest flow spot for all of the falls, so when we're in a dry spell it's the first place to stop flowing.

Once it rains again, this part of the falls will pop back to life.

Across the state, the drought is pushing farmers – who are already in a tough spot because of the pandemic – to make more difficult decisions. Schiefelbein Farms in Kimball has thousands of cattle, but Don Schiefelbein told KARE 11 reporter Heidi Wigdahl he estimates the farm has 75% less hay this year, and their 2,500 acres of corn won't be harvestable.

NBC News affiliate KTTC in Rochester reports that Brenny Farms in Goodhue County plans to sell parts of the herd, and Allison VanDerWal, executive director of the Minnesota State Cattleman's Association, says she's heard that some farmers are planning to retire early due to current conditions. 

Credit: KARE 11

Back in the metro, the city of Minneapolis has asked residents to conserve water but hasn't issued any restrictions on sprinklers or hoses just yet. 

If you're looking for ways to save water, here are some tips from the city:

  • Water lawns during the coolest part of the day to avoid evaporation
  • Only water lawns when needed, "most lawns only need an inch of water a week"
  • Install low-flow showerhead and faucet aerators to shower with instead of taking baths
  • Turn off the sink faucet while shaving or brushing teeth
  • Clean vegetables in a large pan instead of letting the water run
  • Load dishes into a dishwasher without rinsing them first and only run it when fully loaded
  • If you don't have a dishwasher, fill the sink with water to wash dishes by hand instead of letting the water run
  • Only wash full loads of laundry


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