Fox River Stratton Operations Status Update



IDNR Announces 2022 Operating Schedule for Stratton Lock 

MCHENRY, IL – The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) today announced the operating schedule for the William G. Stratton-Thomas A. Bolger Lock and Dam facility on the Fox River in McHenry County, which opens for the 2022 season on Sunday, May 1. 

Normal operating hours will be seven days per week, from 8:00 a.m. until midnight during the months of May through September, and 8:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. for the month of October. 

The Stratton-Bolger facility is closed for the winter season each year from November 1 through April 30.




Update: *This Update is based on the current forecast and will be adjusted based on future forecasts and rainfall.

Summary: The Fox River and Chain of Lakes are currently forecasted to receive approximately 0.75” of much needed rain in the next 7 days. Unfortunately, it is not forecasted to arrive until the beginning of next week. Current total inflows are near 400 cfs with dam outflows near 300 cfs. Water levels are expected to continue to slowly drop for the Chain of Lakes and the Lower River based on the forecast. If the amount of rain predicted arrives, it should help provide some relief from the low water levels for the following week.




Measured inflows on the Fox River near New Munster, WI are 251 cfs and Nippersink Creek near Spring Grove are 68 cfs. The National Weather Service (NWS) estimates local tributary inflows of 75 cfs. The total system inflows are 395 cfs; the outflows at Stratton Dam are 242 cfs. The Fox Lake stage is 4.05 ft; the Stratton Dam Tailwater stage is 0.74 ft. The Fox River at the Algonquin Dam Tailwater stage is 4.57 ft.




Inflows are forecasted to continue to drop as shown above in Figure 1. The NWS 7-day forecast is predicting up to 0.75 inches of precipitation for the Fox River watershed as shown on Figure 2. The heaviest rain is currently forecasted to be Tuesday (~0.35”). The Chain O’Lakes is expected to hold to near 4.0’.




Water levels are expected to continue to drop at Lake Villa, particularly once the wind dies down and shifts to a more northerly direction. Pending significant increase in future rainfall forecasts, the lakes are forecasted to minimally increase in water level for the upcoming week. Regardless of rainfall amount, the goal is to retain as much water as possible while attempting to maintain minimum outflows.




The Upper River near the McHenry Pool will encounter the same scenario as the lakes but with slightly lower levels.




Due to the lack of inflow and precipitation, outflows are approaching minimum levels. This will continue to keep water levels low. The gates will be continuously monitored and adjusted to provide the Lower River maximum available flow.




The seasonal drought outlook predicts drought likely to develop for nearly all of Illinois. This will most significantly impact users on the lower river as flows into and out of the system will likely be much lower than normal. The watershed has received less than 25% of the normal rainfall amount in the last two weeks. The Evaporative Demand Drought Index 2 week forecast shows the area in dryer than normal conditions.






IDNR-OWR will continue to monitor conditions and will make changes as necessary pending future forecasts and conditions.