USGS - science for a changing world

North Dakota Water Science Center

USGS employees on Sorlie bridge

U.S. Geological Survey hydrologic technicians make flood measurements for the Red River of the North (Red River) from the Sorlie Bridge between Grand Forks, North Dakota, and East Grand Forks, Minnesota.

The Red River is part of a complex river system in the north-central plains of the United States. The Basin is relatively flat because of deposition from ancient Lake Agassiz. Because of the northerly flow of the river, the flatness of the basin, and a shallow river channel, the timing of spring thaw and snowmelt can greatly aggravate flooding in the basin. Snow in the headwaters of the Red River Basin begins to melt first, when areas downstream remain largely frozen. This melt pattern can cause ice jams to form, and subsequent backwater (water that is retarded, backed up, or turned back in its course because of an obstruction or an opposing current) can occur as flow moves north toward the ice jams and frozen river-channel ice.

Record floods devastated many communities along the Red River during the spring of 1997. Images of that flood are displayed on our web site along with links to other State and Federal agencies displaying 1997 Red River flooding information.

U.S. Geological Survey at Work Images

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