Environmental History of Grand Forks

The altitude of Grand Forks is a key component of the Red River of the North’s environment and history. The Red is the only single-headwater, dual-flow river east of the Rockies. The actual split is at Grand Marais Creek, just north of Grand Forks (thus the name Grand Forks). From the dual-flow headwater, spring floods go crashing northwards to Winnipeg and then Hudson Bay. Historically furs brought to Grand Forks by southern traders were loaded on rafts which were arranged on the ice.  When the spring melt and flood came, the rafts were caught by the pulse and then floated to the headquarters and shipping center of the Hudson Bay Company at Hudson Bay. South of Grand Forks, however, the Red spring surge flows to Fargo. In the 1800s this pulse fed the Red River rice fields, but with the abolition of slavery those fields were abandoned, and with urbanization in Fargo it just means unwanted flooding.

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