Twin Ports Rip Current Working Group

Eight people stand on sandy beach in front of ParkPointBeach.org 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.

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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 ParkPointBeach.org, 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.

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?

During the summer of 2020, the Twin Ports Rip Current Working Group continued to support the ParkPointBeach.org 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.

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.

Funding

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.


Program Staff

Jesse Schomberg headshot
Coastal Communities and Land Use Planning Extension Educator, Program Leader, Associate Director of Outreach

Partners

  • City of Duluth, Minnesota, Fire Department, State/Local Government
  • Duluth Area Family YMCA, NGO
  • Minnesota Department of Health, 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
  • Park Point Community Club, NGO
  • Park Point Volunteer Surf Rescue, NGO
  • University of Minnesota, Duluth, Natural Resources Research Institute, Academic Institution (College and University)
  • Wisconsin Sea Grant, Sea Grant Programs