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Lower Estuary in Duluth–Superior harbor

Related links
Contact information
For more information, please contact:
Matt Steiger
St. Louis River AOC coordinator
Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources
Superior WI
715–395–6904

St. Louis River

About

Largest tributary

The largest U.S. tributary to Lake Superior, the St. Louis River drains 3,634 square miles, entering the southwestern corner of the lake between Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin. The river flows 179 miles through three distinct areas:

  • coarse soils, glacial till and outwash deposits at its headwaters;
  • a deep, narrow gorge at Jay Cooke State Park; and
  • red clay deposits in its lower reaches.

As it approaches Duluth and Superior, the river takes on the characteristics of a 12,000 acre freshwater estuary.

Upper estuary

The upper estuary has some wilderness–like areas, while the lower estuary is characterized by urban development, an industrial harbor and a major port.

Lower estuary

The lower estuary includes St. Louis Bay, Superior Bay, Allouez Bay, Kimball’s Bay, Pokegama Bay, Howards Bay and the lower Nemadji River. The lower estuary culminates in the Duluth–Superior Harbor, which is one of the more heavily used ports on the Great Lakes. In 1987, concerns over environmental quality conditions prompted the designation of the lower St. Louis River as one of 43 Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOCs). This includes the segment from Cloquet, Minnesota to Lake Superior.

Community engagement

Created in 1996, as a nonprofit, the St. Louis River Citizens Action Committee’s (SLRCAC) primary focus and efforts was to foster communication between public and tribal agencies, industry groups and community stakeholders in the implementation of the RAP. The CAC also advocates and sponsors stewardship efforts as well as promotes sound management of the resources provided by the St. Louis River, Lake Superior, and their watersheds.

In 2009, the SLRCAC began doing business as the St. Louis River Alliance. Alliance members include individuals, families, businesses, organizations, local and tribal governments – all helping to support our work to improve the St. Louis River.

St. Louis River Alliance
394 South Lake Avenue, Suite 321
Duluth MN 55802
Office Phone: 218–733–9520
Office Fax: 218–723–4794
Email: slrcac@stlouisriver.org
St. Louis River Alliance website [exit DNR]

Impairments

Hog Island Inlet

A No Swimming sign was removed
in 2005 after remedial action at
Hog Island Inlet was completed.

The majority of the beneficial use impairments (BUIs) listed for the St. Louis River AOC are due to historic habitat loss from the extensive filling of wetlands and dredging of shallow aquatic habitat, and releases of waste materials that contaminated the sediments and water in the estuary. Some sediment–derived contaminants also appear to be carried by the water column to Lake Superior, the most pristine Great Lake. The States are responsible for implementing Remedial Action Plans to remove the impairments and delist the St. Louis River as an Area of Concern.

Of the 14 beneficial uses, nine are listed as impaired for the St. Louis River.

  • Restrictions on fish and wildlife consumption
  • Degradation of fish and wildlife populations
  • Fish tumors or other deformities
  • Degradation of benthos
  • Restrictions on dredging activities
  • Excessive loading of nutrients and sediments
  • Beach closings and body contact
  • Degradation of aesthetics - BUI removed August 2014
  • Loss of fish and wildlife habitat

Final BUI removal package with cover letters.

Resources

Contacts

Shipping on the St. Louis River

Matt Steiger
St. Louis River AOC Coordinator
Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources
Superior WI
715–395–6904
John Lindgren
St. Louis River AOC Coordinator
Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources
Duluth MN
218–525–0853 x209
Diane Desotelle
St. Louis River AOC Coordinator
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Duluth MN
218–302–6623
Rick Gitar
Water Regulatory Specialist
Fond du Lac Resource Management – Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in Minnesota
Fond du Lac WI
218–878–7122
Last revised: Tuesday September 02 2014