Wild Rice Rebounds in Northern Minnesota
Plenty of wild rice for ducks following last year's floods
BRAINERD, Minn. -- As fall approaches, so does wild rice season. Despite the late, cool spring that had Minnesotans wondering about possible negative effects on this year's crop, it appears to have come through in good shape. There is widespread coverage of wild rice on shallow lakes throughout the state's northern counties, with several excellent stands of wild rice reported.
While it will not be a bumper crop by any means, ducks will find plenty of wild rice in our northern wetlands to feed them during the coming fall migration. Wild rice harvesters should find good opportunities as well, although some lake water levels are low due to the recent dry weather.
Typically, pockets of wild rice will suffer due to untimely spring rains. However, this year, decent wild rice coverage and scattered excellent stands can be found throughout Minnesota's rice-growing range.
According to Rod Ustipak, Ducks Unlimited's wild rice lake management consultant, wild rice maturity this year was about two weeks behind at the aerial leaf stage in early July, but will probably mature only a week or so later than normal. The late spring also means some rice will mature at a lower height than usual, which can be problematic for harvesters on some stands, but not for ducks.
Spring rain events damaged some stands in the floating leaf stage, but only a few important wild rice lakes appear negatively affected, including Laura, Remer Rice, White Elk, the Big Sandy Flowage area and Rice Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The Little Falls area received some exceptionally heavy rains this spring, which significantly impacted the wild rice growth there as well. Despite those losses, Ustipak believes there may be 50 percent of a bumper crop harvested this year, which is a major improvement over last year's complete bust that resulted from multiple, widespread, heavy rainstorms in northern Minnesota.
Helping to ensure that wild rice flourishes is a strong partnership between DU and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, whereby Ustipak and his team of technicians monitor and manage the outlets of more than 90 wild rice lakes throughout northern Minnesota to keep them free-flowing and clear of beaver dams and debris. Ustipak reports that beaver have been have been busy of late, as the recent period of dry, cool weather appears to have spawned a new round of dam-building activity. Meanwhile, Minnesota DNR field staff improved wild rice stands on several lakes by using heavy equipment to clear blocked lake outlets.