2012 Rip Current Rescues On Lake Superior

Lake Superior Rip Current Rescues: 2012


Park Point Beach (Duluth, MN). Old Rip Current Channels can be seen in the sandbars. Image: Google Maps, 2012


Although conditions this summer have been fairly quiet across the Marquette-Alger County shorelines in terms of winds, waves, and rip currents, the same is not true for the Park Point, MN area. From June 1, 2012 through July 19, 2012 the Park Point Beach on Lake Superior (Duluth, MN) has seen 6 rip current incidents. Thankfully, these incidents were all rip current rescues, not fatalities. How does this compare to normal for Lake Superior rip current incidents? Using the first 9 years of data from the Great Lakes Current Incident Database (since the 2012 swim season is not complete) from 2002-2011, we can see that Lake Superior in total averages 2 rip current incidents (a rescue or fatality) per year, with most incidents occurring at this beach. With 2012 already having 6 incidents, we are well above the normal amount of incidents for this year, and the 2012 season is only halfway over.

Year # Rip Current Incidents
2002 0
2003 7
2004 4
2005 0
2006 0
2007 2
2008 1
2009 0
2010 7
2011 3
2012 6


To read about the recent rip current rescues, See these articles:

Article 1

Article 2


Where have Lake Superior Rip Current Incidents Occurred in the Past?

Here is a graph of data collected in the Marquette NWS' Great Lakes Current Incident Database, which runs from 2002-2012. Park Point, MN overall has seen the most rip current trouble.

Data from the Great Lakes Current Incident Database (NWS Marquette).


Rip Currents, seen at the Grand Sable Dunes in the Grand Marais, MI area (Alger County).

What Conditions Typically Cause Rip Currents At Park Point, MN?

Weather and wave conditions at the time of each rip current incident on Lake Superior are also collected in the Great Lakes Current Incident Database so that we can learn what scenarios can lead to their development. During every incident at Park Point, MN the winds were out of a northeasterly direction, which is directly towards the beach shoreline (which extends roughly NW to SE). When the wind blows towards the beach, it creates waves and piles up water in the surf zone (the area you swim). Eventually, this piling up of water can lead to rip current development. Wave heights observed at the time of most of the incidents were in the 2 to 4 ft range or higher, however there were a couple of incidents that occurred when waves were only in the 1 to 3 ft range. When investigated further, it was discovered that the waves were actually in the 3 to 5 ft range hours before hand. Keep in mind, research tells us that rip currents can last for hours after the conditions that create them subside. To find the forecast for the Park Point, MN area, check out the Duluth, MN National Weather Service's Surf Zone Forecast. You can also see the current beach conditions HERE.

Curious about rip current development on the Great Lakes? Check out NWS Marquette's Rip Current Information Page!

Click Here for the Surf Zone Forecast for Marquette & Alger County


Did you know the current at Picnic Rocks, Marquette MI is NOT a rip current?

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