I’m guardedly optimistic that our Lake Champlain water level *MAY* have crested. Again. Currently registering just barely below 98 feet, the current lake level is about 4 feet above where it would normally be at this time of year.
The scene above, Rosslyn’s boathouse and waterfront photographed from the Essex-Charlotte ferry two days ago, looks quaint. Postcard perfect. Except, if you squint to focus on the end of the dock — or even the boathouse pier itself — you’ll notice the unsettlingly high water lapping at the undersides and edges of both, just barely above the surface.
When Lake Champlain began to rise precipitously about a month ago, we managed to pull the dock into shallow water. Despite our efforts, we almost lost a dock section. Fortunately, Tony and Supi were on hand to help me save the loose section on the Vermont-end. We pulled everything into the seawall, and it seem reasonable to assume that we would be all right moving forward. Perhaps we’d even be pushing the dock back out within a week or two.
So much for those expectations. The following diagram from the USGS website tells a different story. Lake Champlain’s July 1 to August 15, 2023 rollercoaster rise was extremely unusual for this time of year. and as you can see, in the last couple of weeks, the previous crest (and super slow drop) was reversed once again because of the rain, rain, rain.
Looking a little closer at the last month illustrates the effects of intermittent bug persistent rain. This next diagram tracks water levels between July 16 and August 15, 2023. Quick to rise. Slow to drop. And almost uncannily quick to rise again when precipitation allows.
At this stage, there’s very little we can do to protect the docks short of removing them and storing them up on the shore as we do during winter time. Of course, this would prevent us from using the boats. So, not ideal.
Pam and Tony have tried lashing dock sections, and stairs together, but two underwater wheels have already gotten damaged by the high water and wave action. Pam coordinated with the owner of Northern Light Docks today in order to troubleshoot the damage and order replacement parts.
If you’re wondering how the present conditions compared to previous years, let’s roll back the clock for a year. And the chart below, you can see Lake Champlain water levels between August 15, 2022 and August 15, 2023.
In other words, we’re about 4 feet above the typical water level for this time of year. Indeed the entire upward trend of that orange line throughout the year is concerning given where things stand today. It seems unlikely that we will witness a dramatic drop in the weeks or months ahead. If the rain abates, we should see current elevated levels begin to taper off. But we’re likely to enter winter much higher than usual. How would that effect a Champlain water level next spring? Time will tell.
In closing this sober look at summer 2023 lake levels, I’d love to share the snapshot taken by Richard Whitcomb this evening. It illustrates all too perfectly the inundation we’re weathering. And yet, it’s beautiful as are all of his images. Yet another silver lining to this incessant rain (and the higher than normal Lake Champlain water levels it’s creating.)