Dry weather across Minnesota this week means that water levels on the state's brimming lakes and creeks finally may start to drop.
Spring's heavy rainfall raised Lake Minnetonka to near-record highs, feeding Minnehaha Creek in the west metro until it became a bursting creek.
On Tuesday afternoon at Gray's Bay on the eastern end of Lake Minnetonka, the water is so high that it partly covers a fishing dock. John and Geri Christianson of Minnetonka had pulled their kayaks out of the lake and were loading up their car. Once the water drops a bit, John Christianson said he wants to paddle a few miles down the creek.
"I've got some friends who want to go, so we're going to get together and go," Christianson said. "It's only about two hours to where we want to get out."
They may not have to paddle very hard. Water flow out of the Gray's Bay Dam that divides the lake and the creek is usually between 75 and 150 cubic feet per second, said Telly Mamayek, communications director at the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District.
Now the water flows at 250 cubic feet per second. Not quite the speed of Colorado River whitewater, but more than most weekend kayakers are used to.
"That is quite fast for folks to be negotiating all the twists and turns that are present in the creek. There are a lot of obstacles. There are downed trees as a result of recent storms," Mamayek said. "It also makes it difficult in some spots to go under the culverts and the overpasses, and they may have to portage more often."
Mamayek advises canoers and kayakers to stay off the creek until the water drops to safer levels.
No paddlers were to be found on the creek Tuesday but 22 miles downstream from Lake Minnetonka, numerous people stopped by Minnehaha Falls, where the heavy flow of water rockets 53 feet down. Last September, the falls ran dry during the drought.
“That is quite fast for folks to be negotiating all the twists and turns that are present in the creek. There are a lot of obstacles.”Telly Mamayek, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District
Matthew Weber, 39, of Mendota Heights was at the overlook with his wife and four-year-old son.
"Last time I was here, we were here to get married and there was no water flowing over the falls at all," Weber said. 'We figured with all the rain, it would be roaring. And we were right, it looks absolutely wonderful."
A long flight of crumbling concrete steps takes observers to the base of the falls. It's there you'll find whitewater and a thick mist kicked up by the water. Andrea Van Osdel, visiting from Yankton, S. D., got an up-close look.
"I'm not from here, but I've been here plenty of times. My sister said last year it was hardly running at all. It's pretty, though," Van Osdel said. "I just had to get down and get some pictures. I hadn't been here in a long time."
Steve Estenson, 65, of St. Paul was one of many people taking pictures at Minnehaha Falls.
"Last time I was here it was so dry it was just trickling, so I just had to get some shots of the really good flow," Estenson said. "Then I ran out of film. Old school. I still have an old Minolta and it gives me great pictures."
Perhaps the most famous picture of Minnehaha falls is of President Lyndon Johnson visiting the park with Sen. Hubert Humphrey during a dry Minnesota summer in 1964. The Minneapolis Fire Department opened hydrants upstream so Johnson could have a photo taken in front of the gushing water. That picture is on a historical marker at the falls. It serves as a reminder of just how dramatically things can change from year to year on Minnehaha creek and all the state's waterways.