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Photos of the aftermath of the 1972 flood

Photographs taken by Dr. Perry Rahn, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Rick Dewald, Rapid City resident at the time of the flood, and copies of figures from USGS Professional Paper 877.


Rapid Creek and the surrounding area


Dark Canyon 1 mile upstream from Rapid City
In Dark Canyon, 1 mile upstream of Rapid City, the narrow flood plain of Rapid Creek was swept clean by the flood. Some concrete slabs mark the location of homes that were swept away. The bedrock here is the Minnelusa Formation.
Western part of Rapid City expanded into the apex of an alluvial fan where Rapid Creek flows out of Dark Canyon
The western part of Rapid City expanded into the apex of an alluvial fan where Rapid Creek flows out of Dark Canyon. Only slabs and some houses remain.

Water flowing on the flood plain of Rapid Creek the morning after the flood.
Water still flows on the flood plain of Rapid Creek on the morning after the flood.

The morphology of Battle Creek below Keystone was changed by the flood.
The morphology of Battle Creek below Keystone was changed by the flood. Where formerly a meandering stream in a grassy flood plain existed, there is now only a boulder swath.
The heavy rains triggered many rock avalanches on the steep valley hill slopes.
The heavy rains (up to 14 inches in 6 hours) triggered many rock avalanches on the steep valley hill slopes.

New gravel was added to this alluvial fan 10 miles west of Rapid City
New gravel was added to this alluvial fan 10 miles west of Rapid City.

Cars and debris along Rapid Creek.
Cars and debris along Rapid Creek. The flood caused over $160 million in damage.
The wreckage of homes stacked up against bridge abutments.
The wreckage of homes stacked up against bridge abutments. This picture was taken on the morning after the flood when many bodies were being found in debris such as this.

Canyon Lake

Houses floated downstream and lodged on the Canyon Lake dam
Houses floated downstream and lodged on the Canyon Lake dam.
Canyon Lake after dam failure
The small spillway (background) on Canyon Lake dam became clogged with debris, and the dam was over-topped. Rapid Creek flows through the dam in a large cut where the dam failed.

Erosion on the downstream face of Canyon Lake dam ultimately lead to its failure.
Erosion on the downstream face of Canyon Lake dam ultimately lead to its failure.
Sediment and debris immediately downstream of Canyon Lake
Sediment and debris immediately downstream of Canyon Lake.

Damage to personal property

People were moving into these new houses the night of the flood.
People were moving into these new houses in western Rapid City the night of the flood.
Close-up view of destroyed houses by USGS gaging station
Close-up view of destroyed houses. The concrete silo houses a U.S. Geological Survey gage which had recorded a maximum of 2600 cubic feet per second in its 20 year history. On June 9, 1972, the discharge at this point was 31,200 cubic feet per second.
Houses wer marked with an X for condemned and S for searched.
After the flood, houses were marked with an "X" for condemned and a "S" for searched. Photograph courtesy of American Red Cross.

This house floated onto Jackson Boulevard
This trailer house and debris floated onto Omaha Street.
Concrete foundations and a swimming pool mark a former condominium development
Only concrete foundations and a swimming pool mark a former condominium development.

Debris along Rapid Creek
Debris along Rapid Creek as a result of the flood.
Remains of homes downstream of Canyon Lake
Remains of homes downstream of Canyon Lake.

The remains of a trailer house after the flood carried it downstream.
The remains of a trailer house after the flood carried it downstream.

This house floated 5 blocks.
This house floated 5 blocks. Many homes were not bolted to the foundation, and simply floated away.
Displaced trailer and debris on Omaha Street.
Displaced house and debris on Jackson Boulevard.

Trailer parks are especially vulnerable to floods.
Trailer parks are especially vulnerable to floods. Mobile homes can be swept off their foundations and smashed against trees. This picture was taken on Cambell Street.

A family stayed in this house as the flood carried it downstream.
At Rockerville, SD, a family stayed in this house as the flood from Rockerville Gulch carried it downstream.

Damage to businesses and automobiles

The Cadillac garage on Omaha Street was inundated.
The Cadillac garage on Omaha Street was inundated.
The Ford garage on East Boulevard was inundated.
The Ford garage on East Boulevard was inundated.


Close-up of Ford garage
Close-up of Ford garage on East Boulevard.

Used car lot on East Boulevard.
A used car lot on East Boulevard.
The flood swpt cars around so that they pointed upstream.
The flood swept cars around so that they pointed upstream, because of the heavy motor in the front and buoyancy of the cab.
Another view of cars that were swept downstream during the flood
Another view of cars that were swept downstream during the flood. Photograph courtesy of Rapid City Journal.
Flood-swept cars, pointing upstream (except for the Volkswagon bug), would stack on top of one another.
Flood-swept cars, pointing upstream (except for the Volkswagon bug), would stack on top of one another. Photograph courtesy of Rapid City Journal.

High water and debris near the Rapid City Police Station
High water near the Rapid City Police Station the morning after the flood.

This new motel in Keystone was completely destroyed.
This new motel in Keystone was completely destroyed.
Close-up picture of new motel in Keystone.
Close-up picture of the new motel in Keystone (see previous picture).

Clean-up operations in Keystone, SD, on June 11.
Clean-up operations in Keystone, SD, on June 11.

Roads, Bridges, and Railroads were washed away


The Chapel Lane bridge was washed out
The Chapel Lane bridge above Canyon Lake was washed out during the flood. Photograph courtesy of Rapid City Journal.
Damage to bridge on Interstate 90 north of Rapid City.
The bridge on Interstate 90 north of Rapid City was damaged where it crosses Boxelder Creek near Black Hawk.
Debris along damaged Interstate 90 bridge north of Rapid City
Debris collected along the damaged Interstate 90 bridge north of Rapid City where it crosses Boxelder Creek near Black Hawk.


Along the Burlington-Northern Railroad west of Keystone.
Along the Burlington-Northern Railroad west of Keystone. Battle Creek washed out many railroad and road bridges.
Another picture along the Burlington-Northern Railroad west of Keystone.
Another picture along the Burlington-Northern Railroad west of Keystone.

The rails from this Chicago and Northwestern Railroad crossing were swept downstream.
The rails from this Chicago and Northwestern Railroad crossing were swept downstream.

This bridge on the Sheridan Lake road was washed out.
This bridge on the Sheridan Lake road was washed out. The estimated damage for roads and bridges was over $22 million.
Many small stream crossings were washed out because debris clogged the culvert entrance.
Many small stream crossings were washed out because debris clogged the culvert entrance. Water then flowed over the road and washed it out, such as here along Battle Creek west of Keystone.

Damage to area dams

The Ft. Meade Dam near Sturgis was overtopped.
The Ft. Meade Dam near Sturgis was overtopped and the rock-filled dam's downstream slope was eroded away.
Close-up of Ft. Meade dam.
Close-up of Ft. Meade dam. Only a thin concrete slab prevented complete failure. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is pumping water out of the reservoir.
Gravel filled in many reservoirs
Gravel filled in many reservoirs to the extent that they are no longer useful. This is the Ft. Meade Reservoir.

The spillway of Victoria dam was inadequate.
The spillway of Victoria dam was inadequate. Water rose and flowed more than 4 feet deep over the entire length of the dam. Fortunately the concrete arch dam held.

Back to 1972 Black Hills/Rapid Creek Flood Page

Aerial photographs of the 1972 flood

Flood Hydrograph of Rapid Creek, June 9-10, 1972

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