Rivers throughout the state were expected to start falling Wednesday and Thursday after a steep rise after recent rains, but boat ramps, park trails and other low-lying areas that have been closed are expected to remain sidelined for the time being.
The Mississippi River, through much of its path north of the Twin Cities, had risen more than 2 feet and on Wednesday was flowing at about three times its normal rate for May 30.
Along the St. Croix, boaters should expect to find a no-wake zone this weekend. The St. Croix, which rose nearly 7 feet in a week, is also expected to creep within inches of the level that would force the closure of the Stillwater bridge for safety reasons.
The Mississippi wanders through a part of central Minnesota that received up to 6 inches of rain May 22 to May 29. It's not the soggiest spot in the state -- Forest Lake, in the northeast metro, has that distinction with 11.29 inches this month -- but that's still plenty of water.
Flooding in low areas was reported or expected in Aitkin, Brainerd, Fort Ripley and other places along the Mississippi north of the Twin Cities. At Anoka, a number of docks and fishing piers in the downtown area have been closed; to the south, along the Minnesota River, flooding closed a road and a trail in Fort Snelling State Park on Tuesday. They'll remain closed until water recedes and they can be inspected.
The rising water is expected to swamp boat landings, picnic areas and Lowell Park in downtown Stillwater. The National Park Service warned that the St. Croix and Namekagon rivers "are flowing high, fast and cold," and it said boaters should take precautions on the water.
Three lock and dams along the Mississippi in Minneapolis were closed to commercial traffic on Tuesday night because of increasingly high water flow, officials said Wednesday. It's the third such closure in 10 years.
The lock and dams already were closed to recreational vessel as of Monday, and now no traffic of any kind can go through, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said. The closed sites are at Upper St. Anthony Falls and Lower St. Anthony Falls in downtown Minneapolis and Lock and Dam 1 next to Minnehaha Park. Based on National Weather Service forecasts, it could be until the end of next week before flows subside enough to allow them to operate again.
Commercial vessels, which carry scrap steel, fertilizer, material for making concrete, salt and some finished steel, use the Minneapolis lock and dams about 18 times per week at this time of year.
The barges and other vessels have little choice during the closure but to sit and wait things out, said Lee Nelson of Upper River Services, which moves barges throughout the Twin Cities area.
"We don't enjoy these times, but we do respect those forces [of nature] and act appropriately," he said. "For every barge, you're looking at 65 semis, so in many respects you are better off waiting" rather than unloading the cargo and using the highways
Staff writers Kevin Giles and Paul Walsh contributed to this report. Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646