Prior to a well-needed rain this week, Upper Saranac Lake (USL) had less than 2 inches of water flowing over the Bartlett Carry Dam. Water levels this summer have generally been below normal flows, at times as low as 4.5 inches below average. The lowest recorded level was in October 2016, with only .96 inches of water over the dam. Last week’s flow dropped to 1.8 inches.
USL saw 1.46 inches of rain in a 24-hour period this week, raising the water level to 4.08 inches on Friday, a more normal level.
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. USL levels don’t fluctuate that fast due to the watershed size, level topography, and the amount of wetlands that retain precipitation. The consistent water levels are primarily due to the Bartlett Carry Dam’s ability to maintain consistent lake levels.
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 (USF) 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 consistency is the wide, 122-foot secondary spillway that sheds excess water quickly.
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. 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, visit the USF web page at: https://usfoundation.net/programs/water-quality/lake-level/
Precipitation and other various metrological data can be found on the USF’s Environment Monitoring Platform web page: https://uppersaranacmonitoring.com