Black Hills Area Floods - 1931 to 1940

Science Center Objects

Black Hills Area Floods - 1931 to 1940

Look under the Multimedia table for pictures and more 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.

On May 6, 1932, a peak flow of 16,000 cubic feet per second (ft3/s) was recorded at station 06422000 along Rapid Creek at Creston. A very large and powerful storm system occurred throughout a large part of the Black Hills area on May 22–23, 1933.  A tornado occurred between Mystic and Rochford, and severe storm conditions were reported from Custer to Newell.  Lead reported 4.8 inches of precipitation in 12 hours and severe flooding was reported along Spearfish Creek, with additional reports of high water for many other area streams. 

Belle Fourche experienced substantial damage from two separate floods along Hay Creek on July 10 and 12 of 1937.  A July 13 article in the Belle Fourche Post described the July 10 flood as the worst along Hay Creek since 1923 and the worst in Belle Fourche since flooding of the Belle Fourche River in 1924.

Severe flooding occurred in Hot Springs along the Fall River on June 17, 1937, and provided final incentive for Congressional authorization for construction of Cold Brook and Cottonwood Springs Dams, which have regulated flows since 1952 and 1969, respectively. On September 4, 1938, a peak flow of 13,100 ft3/s was recorded during the first year of record for station 06402000.  Also on September 4, 1938, a very large peak flow of 11,700 ft3/s was recorded for station 06402500 along Beaver Creek near Buffalo Gap.  A September 24, 1938, article in the Rapid City Journal reported that flooding on the same date farther north along Lame Johnny Creek “was the worst in 35 years.”  This article provides an indication of an exceptionally heavy storm over a relatively large area that in combination with the known magnitudes of the other two large peak flows probably can be considered as one of the largest known storm and flood events in the Black Hills area.



National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2008, The Rapid City flood of 1972—historic Black Hills floods, accessed December 12, 2008, at

U.S. Geological Survey, 2009, National Water Information System (NWISWeb)—Peak streamflow for South Dakota: U.S. Geological Survey database,