With recent rain across the North Country, the water level on Upper Saranac Lake (USL) has crept up to near-normal levels for this time of year. Prior to July’s much-needed rain, USL was 3.73 inches below normal in June. 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 current lake level is 4.56 inches. Levels up until this week have been below average for the year.
The lowest recorded level was in October 2016, with only .96 inches of water over the dam. The highest recorded level of water was May 1, 2011, with 16.8 inches of water flowing over the dam. Generally, there is only 7.8-inch average variation from spring highs to late summer lows.
While there has been some relatively big fluctuations 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 number 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.
Weekly recordings, level comparisons and historic data can be found on the USF web page: usfoundation.net/programs/water-quality/lake-level/
Precipitation and other various meteorological data can be found on the USF’s Environment Monitoring Platform web page: ppersaranacmonitoring.com