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USGS Minnesota Water Science Center Publication

Hydrologic Conditions and Lake-Level Fluctuations at Long Lost Lake, 1939–2004, White Earth Indian Reservation, Clearwater County, Minnesota

By Victoria G. Christensen and Andrea L. Bergman

Scientific Investigations Report 2005–5181—ONLINE ONLY

Prepared in cooperation with the White Earth Band of Chippewa Indians


Long Lost Lake, a closed-basin lake in Clearwater County, Minnesota, has had a substantial rise in lake level since 1990. The increased level and surface area of the lake has led to the inundation of nearby homes and roads. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the White Earth Band of Chippewa Indians, conducted a study to document the historical lake-level fluctuations, to investigate reasons for hydrologic change, and to develop a general understanding of the hydrology of lakes that have had rapid changes in lake level.

Lake levels were recorded continuously from August 2003 through December 2004. The purpose was to establish a temporal, detailed record of lake levels and to connect this record to precipitation and ground-water-level data. A long-term record is critical to understanding the relation between surface water and ground water. This is especially true for closed-basin lakes. Between August 2003 and December 2004, the lake level generally declined. The highest lake altitude was 492.58 meters above NAVD 88 on August 5, 2003, and the low of 492.11 meters above NAVD 88 occurred on August 29, 2004.

Results of water-level measurements in 5 observation wells and 14 wetlands and ponds show that the water-table level is substantially higher on the north side of the lake than the lake level, providing the head pressure necessary for ground-water discharge into Long Lost Lake. In contrast, on the south and east sides of the lake, water-table levels are similar to the lake level. This indicates a general north-northwest to south-southeast ground-water flow direction. Results of a synoptic survey of lake temperature and other measurements supported the direction of water inflow and outflow.

Aerial photography and a geographic information system were used to construct a historical lake record from 1939 to 2001. Lake-level increases match similar increases in precipitation, indicating a strong link between the two. Results show that lake-level increases in Long Lost Lake appear to primarily be due to natural rather than anthropogenic effects.




Purpose and Scope


Description of Study Area

Previous Studies

Hydrologic Change

Closed-Basin Lakes

Aerial Photography in Landscape Change


Ground-Water Levels

Lake Level

Pond and Wetland Levels

Lake Synoptic Survey

Historical Lake Levels and Climate Data

Aerial Photograph Collection, Rectification, and Processing

Data Processing and Analysis

Lakeshore Delineation

Lake Level and Volume

Climate and Precipitation

Hydrologic Conditions and Lake-Level Fluctuations

Recent Surface- and Ground-Water Levels

Synoptic Lake Survey Results

Aerial Photography for Measuring Historic Lake-Level Fluctuations

Relation of Historical Lake Levels and Volume to Climate



Suggested Citation:

Christensen, V.G., and Bergman, A.L., 2005, Hydrologic conditions and lake-level fluctuations at Long Lost Lake, 1939–2004, White Earth Indian Reservation, Clearwater County, Minnesota: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2005–5181, 18 p.

This report is available online in Portable Document Format (PDF). If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader, it is available for free download from Adobe Systems Incorporated.

Download the Report (PDF, 2MB).

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Send questions or comments about this report to the author, V.G. Christensen (701) 281-5018.

For more information about USGS activities in South Dakota, visit the USGS Minnesota Water Science Center home page.

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