Flood waters set to recede on Mississippi River — for now

While river levels are expected to fall over the next few days, warmer temperatures could lead to more meltwater being released from the remaining snowpack.

High water in Aitkin
Floodwater from the Ripple River, which flows into the Mississippi River, on Saturday, April 22, 2023, inundates Aitkin City Park.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Floodwaters should begin to ease on the Mississippi River this week.

But that doesn’t mean flood warnings are done for the season.

While flooding warnings remain in effect until further notice for the Mississippi River at Aitkin and Fort Ripley, projections from the National Weather Service in Duluth show the river crested and water levels are expected to begin to recede throughout the week.

High water in Aitkin
Floodwater encroaches on a business Saturday, April 22, 2023, in Aitkin.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

That’s good news for Aitkin, which had flooding impacting residences, businesses and city parks and utilities.

As of Tuesday, April 25, the Mississippi River at Aitkin was at 17.5 feet, more than 4 feet above the flood stage.


“It looks like we’ll be holding pretty steady right around 17.5 feet for the water elevation and then starting to recede a little bit perhaps by … Thursday evening, very gradually,” said Kevin Huyck, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth. “But we’ll be in a flood state at Aitkin for at least the next week, probably longer.”

Aitkin County Sheriff Dan Guida said residents in flood prone areas were prepared for flooding by using sandbags where needed and stocking up on provisions in case they can’t leave their homes.

It’s just kind of a wait and see kind of thing at this point.
Kevin Huyck, National Weather Service in Duluth, on when flooding will subside.

“A lot of people in Aitkin County are used to water. They call themselves river rats. They’re not leaving their house, they’re used to it,” Guida said, noting some residents have been in the same homes since 1950, when the Mississippi River reached a record 22.49 feet at Aitkin. “The thought of the flood and the thought of this and that bothers some people, the people that it’s actually happening to are pretty resilient.”

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Guida noted some cabin owners on Big Sandy Lake, which is a reservoir of the Sandy River leading into the Mississippi River, are worried about losing property but the dam at Big Sandy is open and flowing.

“Our priority in the region right now is Big Sandy,” Guida said. “If we can pull the Mississippi down, the lakes should follow and we should be good.

High water in Aitkin
Sandbags are placed by a home in preparation for rising floodwater Saturday, April 22, 2023, in Aitkin.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“The people who wanted to throw the sandbags out have the sandbags and they’ve done it so now it’s kind of a waiting game. The weather prediction yesterday showed the river was going to drop a lot faster. … It looks like we’re going to get three to four days of crest, and then it's going to start to drop. That’s OK. We’re good where we are at right now. There’s some people with wet basements, people with a little damage, but a lot of people are very resilient and they’re OK with it here.”

Helping with sandbagging efforts in Aitkin was the Crosby-Ironton Rangers baseball team. Coach Brian Syrsted said two players on his team are related to the owners of Hudrlik Carpets in Aitkin, which is located near the flooded Ripple River, which flows into the Mississippi River in Aitkin.

When the call came into the team Friday to help sandbag around the store, Syrsted said they decided to make it the team’s practice for the day. In all, the team filled about 1,000 sandbags.


“It was a good workout for the boys,” Syrsted said.

Guida reminded residents who may have experienced flooding to check their water wells for potential contamination.

Wells contaminated with floodwater pose a health risk, but the impact floodwaters have on wells and water quality are often not as visible as other flood damage, the Minnesota Department of Health reported.

If floodwater reached a water well, the department of health advised residents to assume their well is contaminated. Water from a flooded well should not be used for drinking, cooking or brushing teeth until the floodwater recedes and the well can be inspected and tested.

Guida also discouraged people from driving in flooded areas, especially dirt roads covered with water, as doing so can cause damage to the roadway.

Huyck said the forecast for receding water on the Mississippi River comes with an asterisk. While rain expected Wednesday night into the weekend isn’t expected to have a big impact on river levels, a potential warmup next week could.

“So we’re kind of running this first surge through but it’s entirely possible when we warm up again we could see the river rise, perhaps not as high as it is now, but I wouldn’t say this is the absolute peak for the spring,” Huyck said. “At this point, we’re on a decreasing trend and that continues out through the seven day period of the forecast, for the time being. But once we get out beyond that and the temperatures start coming back up, we may see that curve switch direction again. It’s just kind of a wait and see kind of thing at this point.”

The Mississippi River at Fort Ripley peaked at 12.14 feet Thursday — almost 2 feet above flood stage — and has since leveled off at 11.7 feet and is expected to stay at that level into the weekend.


MATT ERICKSON, Editor, may be reached at or 218-855-5857.

Matt Erickson joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 2000 as a reporter, covering crime and courts and the city of Brainerd. In 2012 he was promoted to night editor and in 2014 was promoted to editor of the newspaper.
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