Upper Saranac’s water levels rose quickly following a wet and cool period that saw nearly two inches of rain in a 24-hour period.
The lake level has experienced a four-inch increase over the past month, peaking at just over seven inches flowing over the dam. While there has been some relatively big fluctuation of levels this year due to extreme storm events, our water level changes pale in comparison to other area lakes such as Long Lake and Indian Lake, where water levels vary by multiple feet.
Traditionally, Upper Saranac levels don’t fluctuate that fast due to the watershed size, level topography, and the number of wetlands that retain precipitation. The Upper Saranac Lake Watershed — the area of land containing all streams and rivers that drain into the lake — exceeds 48,000 acres and includes Lake Clear and much of the St. Regis Canoe Area. While water levels generally follow precipitation trends, there is often a lag in time for the lake to rise following heavy rains. Evaporation is also a contributing factor in decreasing water levels — up to an inch a day when it’s sunny.
The Upper Saranac Foundation monitors the lake level. Recordings are based on the height, in inches, of the water flowing over the primary spillway of the Bartlett Carry Dam, located on the south end of the lake. The dam, owned by USF, maintains a relatively stable lake level. Contributing to this constancy is the wide 122-foot secondary spillway that sheds excess water quickly. The dam was constructed in a way that does not allow for flow rate control. There are no gates or control mechanisms in the dam.
Weekly recordings are kept by USF to compare current water levels with historic lows, highs, and averages. USF began collecting this data in 2011. The highest recorded level of water was May 1, 2011, with 16.8 inches of water flowing over the dam. The lowest level was October 16, 2016, with only .96 inches of water over the dam. This shows a total maximum variable water level of 15.84 inches. Generally, there is only a 7.8-inch average variation from spring highs to late-summer lows.
For more information and data on the lake level.
Precipitation and other various metrological data can be found on the USF’s Environment Monitoring Platform web page .