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U.S. Geological Survey Flood Photos

 Red River of the North Flooding - 1897

Click on Image for Enlarged Version

The photographs at right are of Red River flooding in Fargo, North Dakota, in 1897.  The U.S. Geological Survey established a gage in 1901.  Therefore, the flood of 1897 is outside the USGS period of record.  However, other records from 1897 indicated that the flood of April 7, 1897, reached a stage of 40.10 feet present datum, discharge, 25,000 ft3/s at a site 1.5 miles downstream from the present Fargo gage.

Because the 1897 flood is often used as a measure of other Red River Valley floods, a description of it at Fargo and Grand Forks was included in a 1952 U.S. Geological Survey Water Supply Paper.  Text from that description is reprinted below.

The winter preceding the great 1897 flood was extremely severe as shown by the following remarks from the Fargo Forum and Daily Republican for March 15, 1897,  under the heading "The Coming Flood":

The present indications are that we will have high water this spring, as high if not higher, than it was in the spring of 1861.  If all reports are true there is more snow on the level now than there was in the spring of 1861.  That year the entire valley was flooded from Big Stone Lake to Winnipeg, a distance of more than 300 miles.  There are but four men living in the valley now that witnessed the great flood of '61 -- the largest body of fresh water in the world at that time * * * R. M. Probesfield is authority for saying that he, a few days ago, measured the snow in his timber, where it was free from drifting and it measured 5 feet.  This measurement is two and one-half feet more snow than we had in 1861.  Those facts prove that we will have a greater flood this year than in the history of the valley.  Old Settler.

The flood forecast by "Old Settler" was not long delayed.  The Red crested at Wahpeton on March 31, 2' 8" above the 1893 high.  By April 1, 1897, the C. M. St. P. & P. Railway tracks between Fargo and Wahpeton were covered with water in spots and traffic was suspended.  By April 2 the Buffalo River overflowed so a large lake was formed between Glyndon and Moorhead.  The Wild Rice (N. Dak.) River was described as 'on a splurge too'.  The Sheyenne River was reported rising slowly at Valley City on April 3.  The Red crested early on the morning of April 7 at Fargo at 34.2 foot stage (present [1952] datum) exceeding the known high levels of 1871, 1873, and 1882.  The Sheyenne River, by April 8, was up so high that water flowed overland from it to the Wild Rice River.  The flood of 1897 at Fargo covered most of the business and residential areas of the city.

The 1897 flood crested at Grand Forks about noon on April 10 bringing the water up to a line along Third Street and covering Demers Ave. in East Grand Forks.  Flooding on all tributaries between Grand Forks and Emerson was reported, and a serious situation developed at Grafton.  The crest reached Emerson [Manitoba] on April 24 and completely flooded the town.  The flood of Winnipeg [Manitoba] did not receive mention as an outstanding event.


U.S. Geological Survey, 1952, Floods of 1950 in the Red River of the North and Winnipeg River Basins: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 1137-B, 212 p.

 Links to Additional Images of Red River of the North Flooding

Floodtracking Charts
North Dakota State University Fargo Flood Homepage
U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Flood Reconnaissance Photographs

USGS Flood Related Publications

North Dakota Water Resources Images
U.S. Geological Survey at Work Images

From Front Street looking south after flood of 1897

From Front Street looking south after flood of 1897 Photo taken by W.P. Tarbell, City Engineer

First Ave South from 8th Street

First Ave South from 8th Street
Photo taken by R.M. Stene, 508 Front St.

Looking south from Moorhead Mill

Looking south from Moorhead Mill
Photo taken by R.M. Stene, 508 Front St.

Photograph taken from Fargo Post Office

Taken from Fargo Post Office

8th Street South 34 feet above low water

8th Street South
34 feet above low water
Photo taken by R.M. Stene, 508 Front St.

Flood of 1897

Flood of 1897

Looking south from Northern Pacific yards

Looking south from Northern Pacific yards
Photo taken by R.M. Stene, 508 Front Street

Flood of 1897

Flood Photos Gallery

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