10 photos that show how bad the drought is in Minnesota

Waterfalls are running dry and crops are brown.
MN River backwaters 2019 (left) and 2021 (right)

The backwaters of the Minnesota River near Jordan in 2019 (left) and 2021 (right). 

From brown yards to low rivers, the severe drought is affecting much of Minnesota. And the impact is visible. 

The Minnesota River is below normal near Jordan, according to the USGS website, and photos (see above) show the backwaters of the river nearly dry this year compared to in 2019. 

The river height in Jordan was as high as 16.62 feet back in March but now it's 5.23 feet, which is the ninth-lowest level on record for that point on the river, USGS says

Two previous lowest points for the river in Jordan were in 2012 and 1988, both years produced a significant number of 90-degree days in the Twin Cities and much of Minnesota – and little rain. There were a record 44 days at or above 90 degrees in the Twin Cities in 1988. There were 31 days at or above 90 in the metro in 2012, which is the most recent significant drought summer.

Gooseberry Falls near Two Harbors is another area where things are running dry. Typically there are hundreds of gallons of water cascading down the falls as the Gooseberry River flows to Lake Superior. 

Gooseberry Falls in August 2020. 

Gooseberry Falls in August 2020. 

But currently, the picturesque falls that are a popular spot for tourists on the North Shore are running low (see below). 

Last week, the Minnesota DNR issued a drought warning for much of Minnesota, with 52% of the state experiencing severe drought and 4% experiencing extreme drought. 

Related [July 16]: Drought warning phase: Minnesota crosses troubling threshold

The lack of precipitation that has led to severe drought conditions has reduced water levels in many lakes and rivers, which can impact recreation and businesses that are dependent on the water, the DNR says

Related [July 18]: How much rain does Minnesota need to end the severe drought conditions?

For example, low water levels on some lakes have caused problems at public boat launches. The DNR said: "When water levels drop during extended dry periods, the concrete ramps at boat launches may no longer reach all the way into the water and hazards such as prop-wash holes can become more problematic."

In addition to lakes, many rivers in the state are seeing water levels far lower than average, according to the USGS's website. The DNR notes that lake and river levels are dependent on the amount of precipitation an area receives, how much of that moisture is contributed by runoff, how much water is recharged or discharged through groundwater and how much water evaporates. 

More images of the drought impacting Minnesota: 

The tributary between Minnehaha Creek and Lake Harriet in Minneapolis on July 20. 

The tributary between Minnehaha Creek and Lake Harriet in Minneapolis on July 20. 

Other photos on social media show cracked ground and brown crops due to the lack of rain this year. 

Joe Nelson contributed to this report. 

Next Up

Screen Shot 2021-07-30 at 10.55.37 AM

Bespoke office space for changing times, courtesy of Redbrick Commercial Real Estate

Redbrick Commercial Real Estate specializes in innovative and sustainable office spaces.

coronavirus, covid-19, icu

MN up to 45 counties with high or substantial COVID-19 transmission

Delta is leading to more cases – and more severe cases – involving children in other states.

Screen Shot 2021-05-23 at 9.08.48 AM

University of St. Thomas latest to require vaccines for students, staff

The college had previously offered incentives to get vaccinated, but is now mandating them.

Pixabay - crowd park outdoors CROP

New forecast predicts more than 4 million Twin Cities residents by 2050

The Met Council believes job opportunities will also steadily grow.

Mike Zimmer

Zimmer on unvaccinated players: 'Some of the things they've read are just, woof, out there'

The coach says he's doesn't understand why some players won't get vaccinated.

Ramsey County - Karina Her booking photo crop 2

Charges: St. Paul woman killed ex-husband, buried him in her back yard

A woman is accused of fatally shooting her ex-husband and burying him in the yard.

Screen Shot 2021-08-02 at 8.02.46 AM

Riverview Cafe in south Minneapolis closes, plans to 'reassess' its future

The cafe and wine bar was open in the Longfellow neighborhood for 23 years.

Pixabay - camp food fire

Bear sightings prompt food storage mandate up north

Visitors to the forest and BWCAW will be required to 'properly' store their food.

covid, vaccine

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Monday, August 2

The delta variant has been leading to higher case counts and hospitalizations in Minnesota.

Bloomington Walmart

Customers reportedly flee after scare inside Bloomington Walmart

People ran believing it was gunshots, but police say it was actually fireworks.

Racket website screengrab aug 2

New alt news site from former City Pages editors launches this month

Racket will be supported through a reader subscription model.


Screen Shot 2021-07-15 at 9.49.04 AM

Drought update: Bad news for Minnesota as new heat wave looms

Will next week get as hot as the American model suggests it could? It's possible, though unlikely.

Pixabay - rain lake puddle grass

How much rain does Minnesota need to end the drought?

More than half of the state is experiencing severe drought right now.

Pixabay - dry grass flower heat

Drought warning phase: MN crosses troubling threshold

The state hasn't reached this level in nearly a decade.

flooding near Hastings

Minnesota bracing for possible significant spring flooding

The best-case scenario will be little snow and a stretch of dry, warm conditions.