Joe Scudera sipped a beer at the Hastings American Legion on Wednesday, watching with other patrons as logs floated down the swollen Mississippi River just outside the window.
"A lot of people drive down there just to look at the river," he said. "We call them 'gawkers.'"
With rivers across Minnesota continuing to rise, local and state officials have a message for would-be spectators looking to see a disaster: Don't. And if you're going to anyway, be as cautious as possible.
"I would just ask folks to be very careful," Gov. Tim Walz said Wednesday at a briefing on flood conditions. "Make sure you are staying back, certainly away from the water."
Showers and thunderstorms Thursday were expected to contribute to rising waters across the state, with the potential for more rain and snowfall in some areas through the weekend.
The Mississippi is expected to continue rising through at least Monday, according to the National Weather Service. The river could reach levels not seen since 2001, and chances are increasing for a Top 5 flood.
The St. Croix River near Stillwater was about 2 feet above flood level Thursday morning, and expected to cross into major flood stage Friday into Saturday. The Crow River near Delano, Minn., had reached above 19 feet, and was forecast to reach upward of 20 feet over the weekend.
Other rivers are set to hold steady or recede over the next few days. The Sauk River in St. Cloud will remain at over 7 feet into next week. The Rum River near St. Francis crested at 10.67 feet Wednesday and should recede below major flood stage at 10 feet on Sunday. The same goes for the St. Louis River in Duluth, which is expected to recede from major flood stage on Saturday and flow below 10 feet by the end of the weekend.
"This late-week storm may cause the river to rise this weekend into early next week, but generally we think we're past the worst of the flooding," said Joe Moore of the National Weather Service office in Duluth.
High water may not stop the curious, but officials said people should think twice about going into areas with little to no flood mitigation.
"If they're not familiar with the roads, or those areas that are prone to flooding, they can actually put themselves in harm's way," said Cathy Zapotocny, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in La Crosse.
In Delano and Red Wing, recently built flood mitigation infrastructure is protecting homes and businesses thus far. Red Wing closed off waterfronts and access roads, and officials there don't yet anticipate having to sandbag.
"When we get to 19.7 feet, we do have some flooding at our wastewater treatment plant, but we're not expecting any other residential, commercial or city-owned property to be affected," Red Wing police Capt. Travis Bray said.
Those communities have decent vantage points to safely watch the water. Bray recommended walking the path across Hwy. 63 into Wisconsin for an elevated view of the Mississippi, while Delano officials said the intersection of Bridge Avenue and River Street downtown is the best spot to see the Crow River.
Renée and Randy Burk of Hanover were in Delano on Wednesday. They had been driving around the area over the past several days, checking the flood's progress.
"It's been fun, interesting, to watch the water rise," especially after seeing the river so low the last two years, Renée Burk said.
In Taylors Falls, Minn., where the receding St. Croix continued to churn Wednesday, locals Milissa Lipp and 6-year-old daughter Sabrina stopped by the river's edge to take in the view.
"It's really impressive to watch," Lipp said, looking out at the river from a spot behind Schoony's Malt Shop and Pizzeria. "You're in awe."
Still, flood tourists shouldn't push their luck. Don't go past signs showing road or trail closures, and especially don't try to pass barricades.
"We're hearing from the National Weather Service the water is moving really quickly and there's a lot of debris in the river," said Lisa Hiebert, St. Paul Public Works spokeswoman. "It may be very interesting to look at, but it's very dangerous."
In Hastings, the water outside Scudera's home on the Vermillion River has reached at least a dozen feet higher than usual this year. He still remembers when he fell in the river in 2019 — the ramp to his dock collapsed while he was clearing logs and debris. Luckily, he had tied a rope around his arm.
"It's very dangerous out there," he said.
Staff writers Katie Galioto, Jessie Van Berkel, Josie Albertson-Grove, Matt McKinney and Jana Hollingsworth contributed to this report.