It's not perfect, but it sure is nice. Isn't it amazing what a little current will do.
Seeing fishermen along the banks of the Souris River through the city of Minot is a wonderful thing. They are there because the Souris is behaving like a river once again. The flood of 2011 did major scouring to the Souris, removing decades of miserable silt that actually altered the status of the river.
Minoters, and others along the Souris, became accustomed to an aging river that was often stagnant and virtually lifeless. Prior to 2011, few fishermen bothered to wet a line in the Souris. Now they do so eagerly and are catching fish, too. Nice fish. The Souris is doing what a viable river is supposed to do. It's terrific!
Prior to 2011, flows in the Souris were often squelched when the release gates at Lake Darling Dam were completely closed to allow for water retention in that reservoir. Without rainfall to replenish the Souris and get it on the move, it amounted to little more than a series of stagnant holding ponds connected by algae-laden water. It was habitat in which few fish could survive, certainly not flourish. People avoided it.
The flood of 2011 not only washed away tons upon tons of silt from the Souris, it brought with it new fish populations. Walleye, northern pike, perch and smallmouth bass washed down the river from as far away as Rafferty and Alameda reservoirs in Saskatchewan. Other fish far downstream moved into current and traveled upstream for countless miles. The Souris was alive again. Unfortunately, it took a major flood for the change to occur.
North Dakota has long been known as region dominated by cycles of drought and wet weather. Right now, most of those in the know agree, we are in a wet cycle. Many sloughs and potholes and lakes are as high as recorded history is long. Rice Lake, Devils Lake, new lakes all a testament to historic water conditions.
I've long said that with four dams above the city of Minot - Boundary, Rafferty and Alameda in Saskatchewan and Lake Darling a few miles distant - that a formula should be found that would keep a flow of water in the Souris. While there's no formal plan yet in place to do that, releases from Lake Darling have proven sufficient enough since the flood of 2011 to make the Souris flow more naturally than most Minot residents today have ever experienced.
As a result, our previously laughable excuse for a river has changed course dramatically. The proof is along the riverbank throughout the city where a large contingent of urban anglers are enjoying the benefits of a living river in their own backyard. It's a beautiful thing.
A river should be an asset to a community, not a detriment or an eyesore, which is what the Souris had become for many, many years. When water conditions permit, as they have since 2011, the Souris River in Minot can do an about-face and provides thousands of hours of recreation. I hope that's the way it will be for many years to come. In the meantime, enjoy it while it lasts.