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Black Hills Area Floods - 1921 to 1930

During 1922, flooding occurred throughout much of the Black Hills area from a storm that began on May 10 and produced heavy precipitation (including rain, hail, sleet, and snow in different areas) from west of Edgemont (Cottonwood Creek and Cheyenne River) to west of Belle Fourche (Hay Creek) to Saint Onge to Rapid City.  Flooding of a power plant along the Redwater River was reported as “the highest ever known, being three feet higher than the highest previously known.” A May 22 article in the Weekly Pioneer Times reported “the highest water in the history of” Saint Onge, and numerous articles described widespread flooding in the northern Black Hills area and extending at least as far south as Sturgis.  A severe thunderstorm on August 3, 1922, caused substantial damage to railroad bridges in one of the many large floods along the Fall River.

During 1923, moderately high water occurred along the Belle Fourche and Cheyenne Rivers that extended through 1929 with moderate to substantial flooding along one or both of these rivers.  Flooding in 1924 was especially severe in the Belle Fourche area.  A record peak flow of 22,400 cubic feet per second (ft3/s) occurred on April 9, 1924, at station 06435500 (Belle Fourche River near Belle Fourche).

Widespread flooding occurred in much of western South Dakota during 1927, following exceptionally heavy snowpack and heavy rains in early May.  A record stage of 21.8 feet for an unknown date in May 1927 is documented for station 06438000 (Belle Fourche River near Elm Springs), which is located about 15 miles upstream from the confluence with the Cheyenne River.  Large peak flows occurred in 1927 (8,250 ft3/s), 1928 (9,660 ft3/s), and 1929 (15,000 ft3/s) for the Belle Fourche River near Belle Fourche (station 06435500); however, all are substantially exceeded by the 1924 peak flow of 22,400 ft3/s.

A stage of 18.0 feet is documented for station 06402500 along Beaver Creek near Buffalo Gap for an unknown date in 1927.  Two people drown in a flood near Hot Springs on June 19, 1927. The stage was determined from information provided by local residents and exceeds a stage of 16.46 feet (associated peak flow is 11,700 ft3/s) that occurred during the first year of operation (1938) of a gaging station at the location.


This railroad bridge was severely damaged during the August 3, 1922, flood along the Fall River near Hot Springs. Photograph courtesy of Fall River County Historical Society (used with permission).
This railroad bridge was severely damaged during the August 3, 1922, flood along the Fall River near Hot Springs. Photograph courtesy of Fall River County Historical Society (used with permission).
Damage and debris left in Hot Springs by the August 3, 1922, flood along the Fall River. Photograph courtesy of Fall River County Historical Society (used with permission).
Damage and debris left in Hot Springs by the August 3, 1922, flood along the Fall River. Photograph courtesy of Fall River County Historical Society (used with permission).
This picture was taken from the top of the Court House in Belle Fourche on April 9, 1924. Photograph courtesy of Tri-State Museum, Belle Fourche, SD (used with permission).
This picture was taken from the top of the Court House in Belle Fourche on April 9, 1924. Photograph courtesy of Tri-State Museum, Belle Fourche, SD (used with permission).

The roofs of houses were sticking up out of the flood waters of the April 9, 1924, flood in Belle Fourche. Photograph courtesy of Tri-State Museum, Belle Fourche, SD (used with permission).
The roofs of houses were sticking up out of the flood waters of the April 9, 1924, flood in Belle Fourche. Photograph courtesy of Tri-State Museum, Belle Fourche, SD (used with permission).
Many homes and businesses were flooded during the April 9, 1924, flood in Belle Fourche. This photograph shows the W.W. Wood Lumber Yard and a hotel where waters reached the second floor. Photograph courtesy of Tri-State Museum, Belle Fourche, SD (used with permission).
Many homes and businesses were flooded during the April 9, 1924, flood in Belle Fourche. This photograph shows the W.W. Wood Lumber Yard and a hotel where waters reached the second floor. Photograph courtesy of Tri-State Museum, Belle Fourche, SD (used with permission).

flood iconPhotos of floods in the Black Hills area during 1921-1930



[All locations in South Dakota unless otherwise specified. Relative magnitude of event: 1, extreme; 2, severe; 3, moderate; 4, minor; 5, very minor; ft3/s, cubic feet per second. USGS, U.S. Geological Survey; --, not applicable]

Date of storm Date of flood Relative magnitude of event Primary stream Secondary stream(s) Primary town or area Description of event Source of information
1 2 3 4 5
-- Mar. 1921 -- -- -- -- X Fall River -- Hot Springs Melting of heavy snow caused damage to bridges and highways. White Owl Oracle (Apr. 1, 1921).
June 1921 June 1921 -- -- -- -- X Cheyenne and Belle Fourche Rivers -- -- Cheyenne and Belle Fourche Rivers reported as higher than usual. White Owl Oracle (June 17, 1921).
-- June 1921 -- -- -- -- X Cheyenne and Fourche Rivers -- -- Cheyenne River reported as higher this week, with the Belle Fourche River not as high. White Owl Oracle (June 24, 1921).
May 10, 1922 May 10, 1922 -- -- -- -- X Bear Butte Creek Belle Fourche River Sturgis Reported as worst storm and high water in years.  Bear Butte Creek was out of its banks and the Belle Fourche River was at bankfull. Black Hills Press (May 11, 1922). Page 1; page 2.
May 10, 1922 May 10, 1922 -- -- X X X Redwater River Spearfish Creek and many others Belle Fourche Redwater River was higher by 3 feet at power plant than previous high in 1916.  Serious flooding occurred in Spearfish.  High water reported in many other parts of northern Hills. Deadwood Telegram (May 11, 1922). Page 1; page 2.
-- -- -- -- -- X X Cheyenne River Cottonwood Creek and others in Wyoming Edgemont Widespread flooding reported with substantial damage from large storm west of Edgemont. Edgemont Express (May 12, 1922).
May 10, 1922 May 10–11, 1922 -- -- -- X X Rapid Creek Belle Fourche River Rapid City Minor flooding reported for Rapid City.  Lead had 3.79 inches of precipitation before a foot of snow.  Flooding reported in Belle Fourche. Rapid City Journal (May 12, 1922).
May 10 to unknown date, 1922 May 10 to unknown date, 1922 -- -- X X -- Spearfish Creek Various Spearfish Precipitation of 6.08 inches reported during a 24-hour period was reported  for what seems to be the Spearfish area.  The article also provides an earlier report that about  9 inches of water fell in less than 20 hours, with damage reports focusing on Spearfish and surrounding areas. Rapid City Journal (May 17, 1922). Page 1; page 2.
May 10 to unknown date, 1922 May 10 to unknown date, 1922 -- -- X X -- Spearfish Creek Various Spearfish Article provided detailed report of very heavy precipitation totals, but dates are unclear.  Some precipitation came as snow and sleet, which helped reduce flood damage somewhat. Flooding reported in Spearfish. Weekly Pioneer Times (May 18, 1922). Page 1; page 2.
May 10 to unknown date, 1922 May 10 to unknown date, 1922 -- -- X X -- Spearfish Creek Redwater River and others Spearfish, Belle Fourche No report from Spearfish Valley provided, but severe damage implied.  Belle Fourche reported as under water.  St. Onge reported the highest water in the history of the town.  Redwater River reported as highest known as of date of article (1922). Weekly Pioneer Times (May 1922).
May 10 to unknown date, 1922 May 10 to unknown date, 1922 -- -- X X X Redwater River, Spearfish and Hay Creeks Various Belle Fourche Lowland flooding reported near confluence of Hay Creek and Belle Fourche and Redwater Rivers.  Record flood reported on Redwater River at power house.  Widespread damage reported. Belle Fourche Bee (May 18, 1922). Page 1; page 2.
May 10 to unknown date, 1922 May 10 to unknown date, 1922 -- -- X X X Spearfish Creek Belle Fourche River Spearfish, Belle Fourche Article provided a summary of same information provided in several previous articles. Western Call (May 18, 1922).
May 1922 May 1922 -- -- -- X X Belle Fourche and Cheyenne Rivers -- -- Belle Fourche and Cheyenne Rivers reported as exceptionally high; perhaps as high as 2 years ago in this area.  Heavy precipitation and flooding reported in the Black Hills area. White Owl Oracle (May 19, 1922). Page 1; page 2.
Aug. 3, 1922 Aug. 3, 1922 -- -- -- X X Fall River -- Hot Springs First of several articles on heavy storm and associated flooding in Hot Springs.   Hot Springs Star (Aug. 3, 1922).
Aug. 3, 1922 Aug. 3, 1922 -- -- -- X X Fall River -- Hot Springs Worst flood in many years destroyed 13 rail bridges and 2 highway bridges. Buffalo Gap Gazette (Aug. 4, 1922). Page 1; page 2.
Aug. 3, 1922 Aug. 3, 1922 -- -- -- X X Fall River -- Hot Springs Report that eight rail bridges between Hot Springs and Buffalo Gap were washed out. Black Hills Press (Aug. 10, 1922).
Aug. 3, 1922 Aug. 3, 1922 -- -- -- X X Fall River -- Hot Springs More details provided on the August 3, 1922, flood.  Water reported as 3 feet deep in power plant, which is ordinarily 13 feet above the water. Hot Weekly Springs Star (April 18, 1946 reprint of Aug. 10, 1922 article). Page 1; page 2.
-- Apr. 12, 1923 -- -- -- X X Cheyenne River -- Edgemont Highway bridge over Cheyenne River at Edgemont was out of commission. Hot Springs Star (Apr. 16, 1923). Page 1; page 2.
June 1923 June 6, 1923 -- -- -- -- X Boxelder Creek -- New Underwood Bridges near New Underwood damaged. Owanka Bee (June 7, 1923).
June 3–5, 1923 June 6, 1923 -- -- -- -- X Cheyenne River -- Wasta Cheyenne River was out of its banks.  Rail damaged near New Underwood. Wasta Gazette (June 7, 1923).
June 1923 June 1923 -- -- -- -- X Cheyenne River -- -- Rains help crops.  Creeks reported as high.  Cheyenne River reported as near stage of 3 years earlier. White Owl Oracle (June 8, 1923). Page 1; page 2.
-- June 1923 -- -- -- -- X Cheyenne River -- -- Damage to crops reported along Cheyenne River. Wasta Gazette (June 21, 1923).
July 1, 1923 July 1, 1923 -- -- -- -- X Fall River -- Hot Springs Heavy storm occurred in Deadwood.  Moderate flooding reported in Hot Springs. Rapid City Journal (July 2, 1923).
July 1, 1923 July 1, 1923 -- -- -- -- X Fall River -- Hot Springs Moderate flood damage reported in Hot Springs. Rapid City Journal (July 3, 1923).
July 9, 1923 July 9, 1923 -- -- -- X X French and Laughing Water Creeks -- Custer Reported as heaviest rain storm ever experienced as of date of article (1923).  Bridge damage along French Creek initially reported as severe, but subsequent correction reported much less damage. Custer Chronicle (July 14, 1923). Page 1; page 2; page 3.
Sept. 1923 Sept. 29, 1923 -- -- X X -- Belle Fourche River Spearfish Creek Belle Fourche Belle Fourche River reported as highest ever experienced as of date of article (1923).  Stage was nearing floor of American Legion building. Deadwood Pioneer Times (Sept. 30, 1923).
Sept. 29–30, 1923 Oct. 1, 1923 -- -- -- X -- Cheyenne River -- Edgemont Cheyenne River reported at highest point in many years. Edgemont Express (Oct. 5, 1923).
Sept.–Oct. 1923 Sept.–Oct. 1923 -- -- -- -- X Belle Fourche River -- -- High water reported in Belle Fourche River. White Owl Oracle (Oct. 5, 1923). Page 1; page 2.
-- Feb. 13, 1924 -- -- -- -- X Belle Fourche River -- -- Flooding from ice jam reported. Wasta Gazette (Feb. 14, 1924).
-- Feb., 1924 -- -- -- -- X Belle Fourche River -- -- Flooding from ice jams reported. Nisland reported highest water in 15 years. Black Hills Press (Feb. 21, 1924). Page 1; page 2.
-- Feb.–Mar. 1924 -- -- -- -- X Belle Fourche River -- -- Continue flooding from ice jams reported along Belle Fourche River. Wasta Gazette (Mar. 6, 1924).
-- Apr. 4–10, 1924 -- X X X -- Belle Fourche River -- Belle Fourche Flood damage reported as worst in history of Belle Fourche as of date of article (1924). Flooding was caused by melting of heavy snow to the west and exacerbated by ice jamming.  American Legion building partly submerged. Deadwood Pioneer Times (Apr. 10, 1924). Page 1; page 2.
-- Apr. 8–9, 1924 -- X X X -- Belle Fourche River -- Belle Fourche Crest of Belle Fourche River was reported within 2 inches of American Legion Hall.  Stage receded 18 inches on morning of April 10, 1924, but was "still higher than any previous high water mark."  Residents of Belle Fourche reported that this was the worst flood in history of the town as of date of article (1924). Black Hills Press (Apr. 10, 1924). Page 1; page 2.
-- Apr. 1924 -- X X X -- Belle Fourche River -- Belle Fourche Primarily provides same information and damage reports as previous articles. Deadwood Daily Pioneer Times (Apr. 10, 1924). Page 1; page 2.
-- Apr. 1924 -- X X X -- Belle Fourche River -- Belle Fourche New high water mark for Belle Fourche River was set 3 feet higher than previously registered.  Back water from Belle Fourche River pushed bridge 100 feet upstream in Redwater River. Belle Fourche Bee (Apr. 10, 1924). Page 1; page 2; page 3.
-- Apr. 1924 -- X X X -- Belle Fourche River -- Belle Fourche More information provided on same flood (April 1924).  Water was very high in Hulett, Wyo. Northwest Post - Belle Fourche (Apr. 10, 1924). Page 1; page 2.
-- Apr. 9–10, 1924 -- X X X -- Belle Fourche River -- Belle Fourche Flooding reported in Belle Fourche from rain on 5 feet of snow, with 55 families displaced. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2008)
-- Apr. 9, 1924 -- X X X -- Belle Fourche River -- Belle Fourche Peak flow of 22,400 ft3/s occurred on April 9, 1924, at station 06435500 (Belle Fourche River near Belle Fourche). U.S. Geological Survey (2009)
-- Apr. 1924 -- X X X -- Belle Fourche River Sundance and Sand Creeks Hulett and Beulah, Wyo. Additional information provided on the April 1924 flood.  Reported as highest known water level in Hulett, Wyo.  Flooding reported in Sundance Creek and near Beulah, Wyo., as of date of article (1924). Queen City Mail (Apr. 16, 1924). Page 1; page 2; page 3; page 4.
-- Apr. 1924 -- X X X -- Belle Fourche River -- Belle Fourche Not as much damage reported in areas downstream from Belle Fourche. New Underwood Times (Apr. 17, 1924).
-- Apr. 1924 -- X X X -- Belle Fourche River Various streams in Wyoming Belle Fourche Article provided a brief account of flooding along Belle Fourche River and other streams in Wyoming. Sundance Times (Apr. 17, 1924). Page 1; page 2.
-- Apr. 1924 -- -- X X -- Belle Fourche River -- Belle Fourche Reported that Minturn bridge on Sturgis road can not be crossed. White Owl Oracle (Apr. 18, 1924).
-- Apr. 1924 -- X X X -- Belle Fourche River -- Belle Fourche Article provided a brief account of flooding along Belle Fourche River. Deadwood Telegram (May 10, 1924).
May 27, 1926 May 27, 1926 -- -- -- -- -- Rapid City -- Sturgis, Deadwood Rainfall of 3 inches in 3 hours reported in Rapid City, Sturgis, and Deadwood. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2008).
June 22, 1926 June 22, 1926 -- -- -- X X Beaver Creek -- Buffalo Gap Heavy storm occurred west of Buffalo Gap, with lowland flooding and crop damage reported. Buffalo Gap Gazette (June 26, 1926). Page 1; page 2.
May 5 to unknown date, 1927 May 1927 -- -- X X X Cheyenne and Bad Rivers White and Missouri Rivers -- Heavy flooding occurred from prolonged precipitation through much of western South Dakota. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2008)
May 1927 May 1927 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Reported as worst May storm in 22 years.  Heavy stock losses reported from snow that followed 4 days of rain. Black Hills Press (May 12, 1927). Page 1; page 2.
May 1927 May 8–9, 1927 -- -- -- X X Belle Fourche River Cheyenne River -- Article provided brief account of flood damage along the Belle Fourche and Cheyenne Rivers. Wasta Gazette (May 12, 1927).
May 1927 May 1927 -- -- -- X X Boxelder and Elk Creeks -- -- Widespread high water and flooding from prolonged precipitation reported. New Underwood Times (May 12, 1927). Page 1; page 2.
May 1927 May 1927 -- -- -- -- X -- Cheyenne River -- Heavy snow, high water, and rail damage reported.  Old timers say they have never seen more moisture. Wasta Gazette (May 12, 1927).
May 1927 May 1927 -- -- -- -- X -- -- -- Prolonged precipitation and lowland flooding reported. Oelrichs Advocate (May 12, 1927). Page 1; page 2.
May 1927 May 9, 1927 -- X X X X Sulphur Creek Red Owl Creek -- Sulphur Creek reported as higher by almost 8 feet than during any other high water.  White Owl Oracle (May 13, 1927).
-- May 13, 1927 -- -- -- X X Belle Fourche River -- Belle Fourche Peak flow of 8,250 ft3/s occurred on May 13, 1927, at station 06435500 (Belle Fourche River near Belle Fourche). U.S. Geological Survey (2009)
May 1927 May 1927 -- X X X X Many -- Many Widespread heavy flooding reported over large parts of western South Dakota. Custer Chronicle (May 14, 1927). Page 1; page 2.
May 1927 May 1927 -- -- -- X X Boxelder Creek -- Owanka Flood took out both bridges across Boxelder Creek near Owanka. Wasta Gazette (May 19, 1927).
May 1927 May 1927 -- -- -- X X Belle Fourche River -- -- Bridge across Belle Fourche River reported as impassable. White Owl Oracle (May 20, 1927).
-- May 1927 -- X -- -- -- Belle Fourche River -- -- USGS records indicate a stage of 21.8 feet during May 1927 at station 06438000 (Belle Fourche River near Elm Springs).  The discharge is unknown, but this is the highest known stage by about 2 feet (followed by 20.00 feet in 1933 and 19.73 feet in 2008). U.S. Geological Survey (2009)
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Beaver Creek -- -- USGS records (Annual Data reports) indicate a 1927 flood stage of 18.0 feet for station 06402500 (Beaver Creek near Buffalo Gap). U.S. Geological Survey (2009)
June 19, 1927 June 19-20, 1927 -- -- X X -- Cold Brook, Fall River -- Hot Springs Two people drowned when the crest of flood waters on Cold Brook struck the car in which they were crossing the bridge at the northern end of Hot Springs. Hot Springs Weekly Star (June 21, 1927). Page 1; page 2.
-- June 30, 1927 -- -- -- -- X Fall River -- Hot Springs Photographs show minor flooding occurred in Hot Springs. Photographs by Fall River County Historical Society
-- Mar. 12, 1928 -- -- -- -- -- Belle Fourche River -- -- Peak flow of 9,660 ft3/s occurred on March 12, 1928, at station 06435500 (Belle Fourche River near Belle Fourche). U.S. Geological Survey (2009)
-- Apr. 8, 1929 -- -- -- -- -- Belle Fourche River -- -- Peak flow of 15,000 ft3/s occurred on April 8, 1929, at station 06435500 (Belle Fourche River near Belle Fourche). U.S. Geological Survey (2009)

 


References

Johnson, H.N., 1949, A climatological survey of the Black Hills: Rapid City, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Black Hills Engineer, v. 29, no. 1, p. 3-35.

Miller, J.R., 1986, Rapid City climate: Rapid City, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Foundation, 66 p.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2008, The Rapid City flood of 1972—historic Black Hills floods, accessed December 12, 2008, at http://www.crh.noaa.gov/unr/?n=history.

Twomey, K. and Magee, H., eds., and Mueller, D., and Petty, N., compilers, 1983, Early Hot Springs:  Hot Springs, S. Dak., Star Publishers, 117 p.

U.S. Geological Survey, 2009, National Water Information System (NWISWeb)—Peak streamflow for South Dakota: U.S. Geological Survey database, http://nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov/sd/nwis/peak.


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