Swift water in Duluth stream hampers search for boyThe body of a 13-year-old who jumped into the Deeps still hasn't been found. Meanwhile, the city says it will review policy on access to the swimming area at Amity Creek.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
Duluth parks officials will sit down with law enforcement to review policy on the popular swimming hole known as the Deeps in light of the apparent drowning Tuesday of 13-year-old Jefferson Bowen, said city spokeswoman Amy Norris.
She called it a “departmental review.”
Meanwhile, divers from local search-and-rescue squads searched the swimming hole, Amity Creek and Lester River on Thursday for the body of Bowen, who jumped into the Deeps on Tuesday and was swept under by raging currents fed by an overnight downpour of 2 to 4 inches.
A stream-flow gauge operated by the Natural Resources Research Institute of the University of Minnesota Duluth showed the Amity’s flow increased from a sluggish 2.6 to 5 cubic feet per second before Tuesday’s rain to more than 2,600 cubic feet per second by about 4 a.m. The flow was still somewhere between 400 and 1,000 cubic feet per second about 4 p.m., when Bowen entered the water just above where Amity Creek flows into the Lester River.
“I think some people may not realize how flashy these North Shore streams can be,” said NRRI scientist Rich Axler. “It doesn’t last long. But because of the (steep slopes) they can jump so fast.”
The Deeps is about a quarter-mile off Superior Street on Occidental Boulevard (Seven Bridges Road) in the Lester Park neighborhood.
The city of Duluth has taken mostly a hands-off approach to swimming at the Deeps, though it erected a double-cable barrier fence to signify that the rocks from which swimmers typically jump are off-limits.
When daredevils took to diving from the branches of a tall cedar on the cliff facing the swimming hole, the city last summer pruned many of the branches.
However, parks and recreation manager Kathy Bergen has acknowledged that determined jumpers will always find a way to get around city-created obstacles.
“Our parks have features to them that are inherently risky,” Bergen said last year after two people were injured jumping into the rock-lined swimming hole. “It’s just the nature of Duluth. There are rocks and cliffs. If people want to take risks, they will.”
Search crews said Thursday they had continued their efforts throughout the day in the water with the help of the Superior/Douglas County Dive Team in the creek and a boat using sonar on the lake.
Capt. Tom Crossmon of the St. Louis County Search and Rescue Squad said a lot of the creek remained fast moving, hampering the search. A search crew planned to stay on scene overnight with a full search crew resuming work this morning.
“We’re not backing off one bit,” Crossmon said.
On Thursday evening, workers cleared target areas in the creek and river so they could be searched by divers today. They also planned to use a remote-operated vehicle with sonar and increase search efforts in the lake.
People who are drawn to rivers and water — including anglers and scientists — watched in awe Tuesday at the force of the river. They saw their usual fishing spots under water and entire trees flowing into Lake Superior.
“I was driving by and thought, wow, it was really ripping. You don’t see it like that very often,” said Jesse Schomberg, a stream ecology and urban runoff expert for Minnesota Sea Grant.
Axler said some people may underestimate the power of rivers at peak flow. Currents can overwhelm even strong swimmers. And rocks in the creek are slippery with a covering of algae.
Tuesday’s spike in flow levels isn’t unprecedented, even for this year. Similar flow rates were seen in June after a long wet period, which had already raised the river, followed by a 1.6-inch rainfall.
Schomberg has been working on efforts to slow urban runoff into the Amity-Lester system. But there’s nothing that could have stopped Tuesday’s deluge.
“I’m expecting to go out there now and see some pretty big boulders moved around,” Schomberg said. “That water is an almost unstoppable force when it’s moving like that.”
News Tribune staff writer Jana Hollingsworth contributed to this report.