South Dakota Water Science Center
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Black Hills Area Floods Since 1877
Streams flowing from the Black Hills of western South Dakota are prone to episodic flooding and have an extensive flood history. Thunderstorms, driven by orographic lifting, have produced flash floods especially along the foothills. The best known example is the thunderstorm that developed over the Black Hills on June 9-10, 1972, which produced a large flood on Rapid Creek and several other drainages causing extensive damage in Rapid City and Keystone and at least 237 deaths. Many other notable floods have occurred in the Black Hills area since the settlement of the Black Hills in the late 1800s, such as the May 17, 1883, flood in Deadwood; the June 12-13, 1907, flood in Piedmont area; the April 9, 1924, flood in the Belle Fourche area; the June 17, 1937, flood in the Hot Springs area; and the August 17, 2007, flood in Hermosa.
The purpose of this Web site is to provide a chronology of floods in the Black Hills area that are documented in some way since 1877 in newspapers, books, photographs, and technical reports. Such a historical chronology of floods will, over time, contribute to improved knowledge of flooding in the Black Hills area. Although the chronology of the floods is voluminous, it undoubtedly is not complete. If you have additional documentable information (such as newspaper clippings or photographs) that you would be willing to share, please contact Dan Driscoll to discuss information (please do not send attachments).
More than 400 newspaper accounts, books, photographs, and technical reports were used to help construct the flood chronology of the Black Hills area. One of the foundation pieces for this chronology is a set of typed newspaper excerpts for 1878 through 1947 that was compiled at some previous unknown time by staff from the U.S. Geological Survey office in Rapid City. Links to individual pages of the set of typed newspaper excerpts are included in the chronology. To obtain a pdf file of the scanned set of typed newspaper excerpts, please contact Dan Driscoll.
The earliest historical flood accounts are from 1877, but streamflow data are not available for these early floods. The U.S. Geological Survey began collecting streamflow measurements in the Black Hills area as early as 1904 for Spearfish Creek and 1905 for Rapid Creek, but the preponderance of data were collected starting in the 1950s. A peak-flow database for South Dakota streams can be accessed at http://nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov/sd/nwis/peak.
The flood chronology provides information regarding the event date and location, flow data (if available), a brief summary of the event, and links to available photographs or scanned newspaper articles. The chronology is presented by decades. The chronology can be downloaded as an Excel® Spreadsheet or as a tab-delimited file (.txt).
Flood Photo Galleries
Other Links of Interest
Many agencies, businesses, and private citizens contributed to the flood history, including the National Weather Service, South Dakota Department of Transportation, Adams Museum, Antiques & Art (Piedmont, SD), City of Deadwood Historic Preservation Commission, Fall River County Historical Society, Hot Springs Public Library, Hot Springs Star, Rapid City Journal, Tri-State Museum (Belle Fourche, SD), Ellen Bishop, John Honerkamp, Ken Lindskov, Peggy Sanders, David Schnute, and others.