Water resources of the Marquette Iron Range area, Michigan

Water Supply Paper 1842

Prepared in cooperation with the State of Michigan
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Large quantities of water are needed in the beneficiation and pelletizing processes by which the ore mined from low-grade iron-formations is upgraded into an excellent raw material for the iron and steel industry. Extensive reserves of low-grade iron-formation available for development herald an intensification of the demands upon the area's water supplies. This study was designed to provide water facts for public and private agencies in planning orderly development and in guiding the management of the water resources to meet existing and new requirements.

Inland lakes and streams are the best potential sources of water for immediate development. The natural flow available for 90 percent of the time in the Middle and East Branches of the Escanaba River, the Carp River, and the Michigamme River is about 190 cubic feet per second. Potential storage sites are identified, and their complete development could increase the available supply from the above streams to about 450 cubic feet per second.

Outwash deposits are the best potential sources of ground water. Large supplies could be developed from extensive outwash deposits in the eastern part of the area adjacent to Goose Lake Outlet and the East Branch Escanaba River. Other areas of outwash occur in the vicinity of Humboldt, West Branch Creek, and along the stream valleys. Streamflow data were used to make rough approximations of the ground-water potential in some areas. In general, however, the available data were not sufficient to permit quantitative evaluation of the potential ground-water supplies.

Chemical quality of the surface and ground waters of the area is generally acceptable for most uses. Suspended sediment in the form of mineral tailings in effluents from ore-processing plants is a potential problem. Existing plants use settling basins to effectively remove most of the suspended material. Available records indicate that suspended-sediment concentrations and loads in the receiving waters have not been significantly increased by these operations.

Present water use is about 60 cubic feet per second in the area. Thus, available water supplies are believed to be adequate for existing and foreseeable new uses. Water management, rather than water availability, is of prime consideration in this area. Time distribution of available water supplies, distribution of water to points of use, effect of surface-water development upon ground water and vice versa, and possible conflicts with competing uses are some of the management problems that are discussed. The presence of many inland lakes, favorable storage sites on streams, and several promising acquifers provide flexibility in possible water-management operations. A discussion of the interrelationships between surface and ground water and a ground-water budget are presented to render a better understanding of the hydrologic system with which water management will be concerned.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Water resources of the Marquette Iron Range area, Michigan
Series title:
Water Supply Paper
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Government Printing Office
Publisher location:
Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s):
Michigan Water Science Center
Document: ix, 142 p.; 4 Plates: 30.00 x 20.25 inches or smaller
United States
Other Geospatial:
Marquette Iron Range area