Twin Ports Rip Current Working Group

Eight people stand on sandy beach in front of banner addressing reporters.
Members of the Twin Ports Rip Current Working Group address reporters after the installation of new warning and safety signage along Duluth's Park Point beach. Image credit: Marie Thoms

The Twin Ports Rip Current Working Group seeks to increase public awareness of rip currents and provide a means of widely distributing rip current safety message.

Rip Current Safety Toolkit. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Lifesaving Association (USLA) debuted a Rip Current Safety Toolkit July 19, 2021, to support the work of all beach and ocean safety advocates.

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What is a rip current?

Rip currents are strong, narrow channels of water that flow out, away from shore. They tend to occur near sandy beaches, where trenches and breaks in the sandbar form off the shoreline on the lake bottom. These powerful, channeled currents often develop because of high wind, waves, shoreline structures (such as piers), and weather phenomena. Rip currents can pull even the strongest swimmers far from the shore, at an average speed of approximately 2 feet per second.

Project description

The Twin Ports Rip Current Working Group has developed multiple ways to reach people heading to Duluth’s beaches including websites such as, warning flags at Duluth-area beaches, a rip current information kiosk at the Lake Superior Maritime Museum, beach rescue stations along Minnesota Point, demonstrations at safety expos, beach safety presentations to tourism businesses, and participation in the yearly St. Louis River Quest program that reaches thousands of sixth-graders every year. Together, we’ve accomplished a lot and - we hope - saved lives.

Project activities:

During the summer of 2020, the Twin Ports Rip Current Working Group continued to support the website and the daily placement of beach hazard flags along Duluth's Park Point Beach. For beach goers who head to Park Point Beach without a device or means to check the beach forecast, there are a series of warning flags placed along the road leading to the Park Point Beach beach house.

Beach warning flags. High hazard red flag, medium hazard yellow flag, low hazard green flag. Absence of flags does not assure safe waters.

  • Low risk (green flag) indicates risk of rip currents is low. However, life-threatening rip currents often occur in the vicinity of jetties, reefs, and piers.
  • Moderate risk (yellow flag) indicates that life-threatening rip currents are possible in the surf zone.
  • High risk (red flag) indicates that life-threatening rip currents are likely in the surf zone.

The swim hazard risk gives details about rip currents and is taken directly from the National Weather Service surf zone forecast

Why Minnesota Sea Grant?

Minnesota Sea Grant's participation and leadership in the Twin Ports Rip Current Working Group supports our mission to enhance the practical use and conservation of coastal, marine and Great Lakes resources in order to create a sustainable economy and environment.

What have we done lately?

2022: St. Louis River Quest

The Twin Ports Rip Current Working Group will be hosting a water safety station as part of the 2022 St. Louis River Quest, an annual program that will draw approximately 1,500 local 6th-grade student participants. A recent evaluation of the St. Louis River Quest program by Minnesota Sea Grant Graduate Research Assistant, Ellen Munshower, found that even two years after the program, 37% of previous student participants remember learning about water safety, and nearly two-thirds aced knowledge questions about how to escape a rip current.

Planning is underway for the 2022 summer beach season. Other upcoming activities include a review of beach safety signage and planning for additional water safety outreach events.

2021: Park Point Beach Visitor Survey

In summer 2021, the Twin Ports Rip Current Working Group conducted an online Park Point Beach visitor survey of people physically present at Duluth's Park Point Beach. The survey was designed to help guide and improve water safety and water safety messaging at Park Point Beach. A total of 182 survey responses were received and the Twin Ports Rip Current Working Group are summarizing the results.

Two interesting survey findings thus far include: 

  1. Over 20% of survey respondents indicated high risk of rip currents as a deciding factor to forgo the beach.
  2. Only 2% of survey respondents indicated that swimming directly to shore would be a very effective strategy for escaping a rip current. Most respondents (95%) recognized that swimming sideways away from a rip current would be a somewhat effective or very effective strategy for escaping a rip current.

2021: Break the Grip of the Rip video

In 2021, the Twin Ports Rip Current Working Group created a video Break the Grip of the Rip. The video is an educational presentation that explains what a rip current is, where rip currents are typically found, why rip currents are dangerous, and recommendations for breaking away from a rip current.

In the past, the Twin Ports Rip Current Working Group has participated in the St. Louis River Quest, which provides 6th-grade students living in the Twin Ports of Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin with learning experiences that enhance awareness and understanding of the St. Louis River. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation, in-person participation in the St. Louis River Quest did not take place in the year 2020 or 2021.


Participants and audience

The Twin Ports Rip Current Working Group seeks to serve the public who visits and uses Lake Superior in the Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin area.


In-kind support for the Twin Ports Rip Current Working Group is provided by Minnesota Sea Grant, city of Duluth Parks and Recreation, the Duluth Fire Department, Duluth Y, Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Duluth. Project partners are listed below.


  • City of Duluth, Minnesota, Fire Department, State/Local Government
  • City of Duluth, Minnesota, State/Local Government
  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Lake Superior Coastal Program, State/Local Government
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Duluth Area Office, Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center, Federal Government
  • City of Duluth, Minnesota, Parks and Recreation Department, State/Local Government
  • National Weather Service, Forecast Office, Duluth, Minnesota, Federal Government
  • University of Minnesota, Duluth, Natural Resources Research Institute, Academic Institution (College and University)
  • Wisconsin Sea Grant, Sea Grant Programs

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