USGS - science for a changing world

South Dakota Water Science Center

orange dotHome orange dotScience Topics orange dotOur Cooperators orange dotPublications/Videos orange dotGIS/Geospatial Resources orange dotNewsroom orange dotOutreach orange dotContact

DATA CENTER

INFORMATION CENTER

USGS IN YOUR STATE

USGS Water Science Centers are located in each state.

There is a USGS Water Science Center office in each State. Washington Oregon California Idaho Nevada Montana Wyoming Utah Colorado Arizona New Mexico North Dakota South Dakota Nebraska Kansas Oklahoma Texas Minnesota Iowa Missouri Arkansas Louisiana Wisconsin Illinois Mississippi Michigan Indiana Ohio Kentucky Tennessee Alabama Pennsylvania West Virginia Georgia Florida Caribbean Alaska Hawaii New York Vermont New Hampshire Maine Massachusetts South Carolina North Carolina Rhode Island Virginia Connecticut New Jersey Maryland-Delaware-D.C.

Black Hills Area Floods - 1877 to 1890

The oldest account available for this period is for 1877 when a heavy rainstorm caused flooding in Deadwood. Several floods are documented for 1878 and include a peak flow of 7,500 cubic feet per second (ft3/s) on Rapid Creek. Flooding along Beaver Creek caused 11 deaths in June 1879. Benchmark flooding occurred in 1883, with extremely high flows reported throughout the northern Black Hills that resulted from heavy rainfall on top of snowmelt. Flooding occurred within the Fall River Basin on August 27, 1884. Widespread flooding in the Black Hills area occurred in 1890.


Aftermath of 1883 flood in Deadwood. Photo courtesy of Adams Museum, Deadwood, SD Aftermath of 1883 flood in Deadwood. Photo courtesy of Adams Museum, Deadwood, SD Aftermath of 1883 flood in Deadwood. Photo courtesy of Adams Museum, Deadwood, SD
Aftermath of 1883 flood in Deadwood. Photo courtesy of Adams Museum, Deadwood, SD Aftermath of 1883 flood in Deadwood. Photo courtesy of Adams Museum, Deadwood, SD

Aftermath of May 17, 1883, flood in Deadwood. Photographs courtesy of Adams Museum, Deadwood, SD (used with permission).

flood iconPhoto gallery of 1883 flood in Deadwood



[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. --, 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
July 13, 1877 July 13, 1877 -- -- -- -- X Whitewood Creek -- Deadwood Damage reported to roads and cabins from biggest storm yet chronicled in the Black Hills. Black Hills Daily Times (July 13, 1877).
Apr. 16–17, 1878 Apr. 18, 1878 -- -- -- -- X Rapid Creek -- Rapid City High water reported for Rapid Creek, with some damage in Rapid City. Black Hills Journal (Apr. 20, 1878).
May 1878 May 22–23, 1878 -- -- -- X X Rapid Creek Whitewood and Deadwood Creeks Rapid City Flooding occurred in Rapid City and Deadwood. Black Hills Journal (May 25, 1878).
-- June 10–11, 1878 -- -- X -- -- Rapid Creek -- Rapid City Peak flow of 7,500 ft3/s for Rapid Creek for June 10–11, 1878.  Three other smaller floods reported during 1878. Miller (1986)
-- 1878 -- -- -- -- -- Whitewood Creek Deadwood Creek Deadwood Substantial flooding occurred on unknown date.  Very heavy snows reported during winter months. Tallent (1899)
-- Apr.–June  1878 -- -- X -- -- Rapid Creek Whitewood Creek Rapid City Minor damage reported for April, May, and June 1878. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2008)
-- July 12, 1878 -- -- -- -- X Whitewood Creek -- Deadwood/Lead Freight train (10 ox wagons) washed downstream. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2008)
-- July 12, 1878 -- -- -- -- X Rapid Creek -- Rapid City Rapid Creek rose 10 feet and one life was lost.  Unclear if date was July 12 or June 10–11, 1878. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2008)
June 12, 1879 June 12–13, 1879 -- X X -- -- Beaver Creek -- Buffalo Gap Eleven deaths reported from flooding along Beaver Creek near Buffalo Gap. Black Hills Journal (June 14, 1879).
June 10, 1879 June 10–11, 1879 -- -- -- -- X Rapid Creek -- Rapid City Flood damage reported in Rapid City area.   Black Hills Journal (June 15, 1879).
June 1879 June 1879 -- X X -- -- Beaver Creek -- Buffalo Gap Six bodies recovered from the flood near Buffalo Gap. Black Hills Daily Times (June 17, 1879).
June 1879 June 1879 -- X X -- -- Beaver Creek -- Buffalo Gap Five victims still missing from flood near Buffalo Gap. Black Hills Daily Times (June 18, 1879).
June 1879 June 1879 -- X X -- -- Beaver Creek -- Buffalo Gap At least four victims reported missing in flood near Buffalo Gap. Black Hills Journal (June 21, 1879).
Mar. 4–5, 1882 Mar. 5, 1882 -- -- -- -- X -- -- -- Northwestern coaches on Pierre Road delayed. Black Hills Journal (Mar. 10, 1882).
Apr. 1882 Apr. 1882 -- -- -- -- X Cheyenne River -- -- Cheyenne River reported as being high for several days. Black Hills Journal (Apr. 28, 1882).
May 7, 1882 May 7, 1882 -- -- -- X X Spring Creek -- -- Two reservoirs washed out along Spring Creek (near current location of Sheridan Lake). Black Hills Journal (May 12, 1882). Page 1; page 2.
July 5, 1882 July 5, 1882 -- -- -- X X Rapid Creek -- -- Rapid Creek rose 5 feet in one-half hour.  Same flood as reported by Miller (1986). Black Hills Journal (July 7, 1882).
July 5, 1882 July 5, 1882 -- -- -- X X Rapid Creek -- Rapid City Rapid Creek rose 5 feet in one-half hour.   Miller (1986)
July 28, 1882 July 28, 1882 -- -- -- X -- Redwater River -- -- Storm reported as severe beyond precedent. Caused rise of 25 feet in confined places along Redwater River.  Damage to crops and stock reported. Black Hills Journal (Aug. 4, 1882).
May 1883 May 11, 1883 -- -- X -- -- Whitewood Creek Spearfish Creek Deadwood, Spearfish Heavy damage reported for Deadwood.  About one-third of Spearfish washed away. Deadwood Pioneer Times (May 18, 1883).
May 17–18, 1883 May 18–19, 1883 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Deadwood This 1907 article recounted events of the 1883 flood in Deadwood. Deadwood Pioneer Times (May 19, 1907). Page 1; page 2.
-- May 16, 1883 -- -- X X -- Whitewood Creek -- Deadwood Photographs of 1883 Deadwood flood. Adams Museum, Deadwood, SD (see photos above)
May 1883 May 17, 1883 -- -- X X -- Rapid Creek -- Rapid City Peak flow of 8,400 ft3/s occurred on Rapid Creek on May 17, 1883.  Torrential rain and snowmelt occurred. Miller (1986)
May 1883 May 11, 1883 -- -- X X -- Rapid Creek Whitewood Creek Rapid Valley Considerable damage reported for Rapid Valley and in Deadwood. Black Hills Journal (May 18, 1883).
May 17, 1883 May 18, 1883 -- -- X X -- Whitewood Creek -- Deadwood Reported rising water from snow melt.  Paragraph refers to a lengthier article. Black Hills Daily Times (May 18, 1883).
May 17–18, 1883 May 17–18, 1883 -- -- -- X X Spearfish Creek -- Spearfish Lower part of Spearfish reported to be flooded. Black Hills Daily Times (May 20, 1883).
May 17–18, 1883 May 17–18, 1883 -- -- -- X X Spearfish Creek -- Spearfish Heavy rainfall reported with flooding in Spearfish Creek. Dakota Register (May 19, 1883).
-- May 17, 1883 -- -- X X -- Whitewood Creek -- Deadwood Aftermath of Deadwood flood described. Article attributes exacerbation of flooding to accumulation of mine tailings in stream channels. Black Hills Daily Times (May 20, 1883).
May 17–18, 1883 May 17, 1883 -- -- X X -- Whitewood and Rapid Creeks Elk, Boxelder, Castle, Spring, and Battle Creeks Deadwood, Rapid City Severe flood destroyed most low-lying areas in Deadwood.  Elk Creek was high, but minimal damage.  Boxelder and Spring Creeks were higher than ever known.  Probably the largest known flood to date in Rapid City (see Miller, 1986) with flooding reported along Castle Creek.  Battle Creek reported as high.  Cheyenne River reported at unprecedented height. Black Hills Journal (May 25, 1883). Page 1; page 2.
May 17–18, 1883 May 17–18, 1883 -- -- -- X X Spearfish Creek -- Spearfish Article described flood damage in Spearfish Creek as worst in the brief history of the town, but not as bad as things might have been. Dakota Register (May 26, 1883).
May 1883 May 1883 -- -- -- -- -- Numerous - Black Hills wide -- -- Article described heavy extended rain covering entire Black Hills area, with flooding throughout the entire region.  Heavy floods reported for Rapid and Hat Creeks and that "water extended from bluff to bluff"on the Cheyenne River downstream from the Belle Fourche River. Johnson (1949). 
June 15, 1883 June 15, 1883 -- -- X X -- Rapid Creek Boxelder and Elk Creeks Rapid City Very heavy storm occurred"5 to 8 miles west of the foothills."  Rapid Creek reported as larger than in previous years, but May 17–18, 1883, not referenced.  Very high flows reported along Boxelder and Elk Creeks, with substantial damage. Black Hills Weekly Journal (June 22, 1883). Page 1; page 2; page 3.
-- Aug. 27, 1884 -- X X X -- Fall River -- Hot Springs The design document for Cottonwood Springs Dam indicates a report from "pioneer residents" of a peak stage in 1884 that was 6 feet higher than the 1938 flood.  The design document for Cold Brook Dam indicates historical high-water marks for the same 1883 date that are 7 feet higher than in 1937, with the 1937 flow shown as about 15 percent larger than the 1938 flow. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (1950, 1966).
June 17, 1885 June 17, 1885 -- -- -- -- X Rapid Creek -- Rapid City Heavy rain caused Rapid Creek to rise out of its banks. Black Hills Weekly Journal (June 19, 1885).
June 17, 1885 June 17, 1885 -- -- -- -- X Castle Creek -- -- Some bridges destroyed upstream from confluence with Rapid Creek. Rapid City Journal (June 19, 1885). Page 1; page 2.
June 20, 1885 June 20, 1885 -- -- -- -- X Spearfish Creek -- Spearfish Wave of water 4 to 6 feet high flooded Spearfish Creek. Black Hills Daily Times (June 28, 1885).
1885 1885 -- -- -- -- -- -- Rapid, Boxelder, and Elk Creeks -- More than $25,000 in flood damage reported.  Date not specified, perhaps June 17, as reported by other news articles dated June 19, 1885. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2008)
June 2, 1886 June 2, 1886 -- -- -- -- X Unknown -- -- Several bridges washed out and other flood damage reported between Rapid City and Deadwood. Rapid City Journal (June 8, 1886).
July 12, 1886 July 12, 1886 -- -- -- -- X Rapid Creek -- -- Sheriff waded Rapid Creek to catch woman who was later fined for indecent exposure. Rapid City Journal (July 13, 1886).
-- July 30, 1886 -- -- -- -- -- Rapid Creek -- Rapid City One man drowned along Rapid Creek. Miller (1986)
May 1888 May 1888 -- -- -- -- X Spring Creek -- -- Spring Creek reported as being higher than ever before known. Rapid City Journal (May 23, 1888).
May 1888 May 1888 -- -- -- -- X Unknown -- -- Train tracks damaged near Chadron, Neb. Rapid City Journal (May 27, 1888). Page 1; page 2.
May 1888 May 1888 -- -- -- -- X Unknown -- -- Another article that reported damaged train tracks. Rapid City Journal (June 1, 1888).
May 1888 -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Total precipitation in May was 6.01 inches (presumably in Rapid City). Rapid City Journal (June 2, 1888).
Apr. 17, 1889 Apr. 19, 1889 -- -- -- -- X Rapid Creek -- -- Minor localized flooding of cellars and yards reported. Rapid City Journal (Apr. 19, 1889).
July 18,19, 1889 July 19,20, 1889 -- -- -- -- X -- -- Deadwood Minor localized flooding reported for Deadwood. Rapid City Journal (July 20, 1889).
Aug. 10, 1889 Aug. 10, 1889 -- -- -- -- X Battle Creek French and Battle Creeks -- Large storm system south and east of Rapid City caused widespread (minor) flooding. Rapid City Journal (Aug. 13, 1889). Page 1; page 2.
1890 1890 -- -- -- -- X Gold Run Creek -- Deadwood Photograph of the Deadwood Central Railroad tracks after the 1890 washout by Gold Run Creek Fielder (1964)
-- Jan. 1890 -- -- -- -- X Whitewood Creek -- Deadwood Whitewood Creek reported as being out of its banks. Rapid City Journal (Jan. 31, 1890).
June 4–5, 1890 June 5, 1890 -- -- -- -- X City and Whitewood Creeks -- Deadwood Localized flooding in Deadwood and high water along Whitewood Creek reported. Rapid City Journal (June 6, 1890).
June 4–5, 1890 June 5, 1890 -- -- -- -- X Whitewood Creek -- Deadwood Continued flooding reported for Whitewood Creek in Deadwood. Rapid City Journal (June 7, 1890). Page 1; page 2.
June 4–5, 1890 June 5, 1890 -- -- -- -- X Whitewood Creek -- Deadwood Reported that rain fell for 24 hours. Article indicated that storm was Black Hills wide. Black Hills Daily Times (June 6, 1890).
-- June 6, 1890 -- -- -- -- X Whitewood Creek Spearfish Creek Deadwood Flow subsided in Whitewood Creek.  Three dams at Spearfish went out with flood. Black Hills Daily Times (June 7, 1890).
May and Aug. 1890 May and Aug. 1890 -- -- -- -- X Various Various Various Various flooding reported for Deadwood and Rapid City. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (2008)
Aug. 10, 1890 Aug. 10, 1890 -- -- -- -- X Rapid Creek -- Rapid City Minor localized flooding reported for Rapid City area. Miller (1986)
Aug. 10, 1890 Aug. 10, 1890 -- -- -- -- X Rapid Creek -- Rapid City Minor localized flooding reported for Rapid City area.  Same event as reported by Miller (1986). Rapid City Journal (Aug. 12, 1890). Page 1; page 2.
-- -- -- -- -- -- -- Numerous - Black Hills wide -- -- 1890 is noted with 1883 and 1907 as a year of "hills-wide" flooding. South Dakota Historical Society (1890).

References

Fielder, Mildred, 1964, The Stagebarn Canyon flood: True West, January-February 1964, p. 45, 51.

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.

South Dakota Historical Society, 1960, South Dakota Department of History—Report and historical collections: Stickney, S. Dak., Argus Printers, v. 30.

Tallent, Annie, D 1899, The Black Hills; or, The last hunting ground of the Dakotahs:  St. Louis, Mo., Nixon-Jones Printing Co., 713 p.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1950:  Cold Brook Dam and Reservoir, Fall River and tributaries, South Dakota, Analysis of design:  Department of the Army, Fort Peck District, 127 p.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 1966:  Cottonwood Springs Creek Dam and Reservoir, Fall River Basin, South Dakota, Design Memorandum no. CS–10:  Department of the Army, Omaha District, 17 p.


Some of the documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Acrobat Reader, free of charge.

 

USGS Home Water Climate Change Core Science Ecosystems Energy and Minerals Env. Health Hazards

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://sd.water.usgs.gov/projects/FloodHistory/1878-1890/FH1878.html
Page Contact Information: Webmaster
Page Last Modified: Wednesday, 09-Jan-2013 11:01:39 EST