A Young River in an Old Valley

The Red River in Minnesota flows backwards in its channel, in a northerly direction. Its course is backwards not because it’s going north (many people in America do think that rivers flow south), but rather, because its channel is part of a larger channel that historically carried more water than any other river on this planet has ever carried. This was the Warren River, which emptied Lake Agassiz (the largest fresh water lake ever) via the Red River Valley, then on to the Minnesota River Valley, then to the Mighty Mississippi. Much mightier then.

Now, the Red River flows north into Lake Winnipeg, which ultimately links to Hudson Bay. It forms the border between North Dakota and Minnesota, passing by Fargo (the very same Fargo that had nothing to do with the Coen brothers’ film of the same name). This region gets a lot of snow some years, and when there is a lot of snow and a quick warm-up in the spring, the river carries quite a bit of extra water. This happens often enough that it is rarely a surprise but nothing close to every year. The flooding, in turn, often causes a great deal of property damage and threatens people’s well being.

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(Originally posted at Quiche Moraine)

Comments

  1. #1 Rod
    March 21, 2011

    The Red River flows either through or around Winnipeg, depending on how much it is carrying. Years ago, after a disastrous flood, Manitoba under Premier Duff Roblin built Duff’s Ditch, or the Red River Floodway, to divert water around the city of Winnipeg. Roblin took a lot of flak for the costs… in the last decade there have been at least two (IIRC) very serious floods which would have been catastrophic had Duff’s ditch not been in place. Manitobans may correct me but I think I have the major points… spend a few bucks now, save a pile (and a lot of lives) later… a lesson worth learning in today’s climate.

  2. #2 richardrob
    March 22, 2011

    Well said, Rod.

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