Black Hills Area Floods - 1961 to 1970

Science Center Objects

Black Hills Area Floods - 1961 to 1970

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.

Exceptional storms and flooding occurred along the northeastern flanks of Black Hills in 1962, following about a decade of extended and severe drought conditions (Driscoll and others, 2000).  Articles of May 23 and June 6, 1962, in the Sturgis Tribune described moderately high water in the Sturgis area following a week of prolonged rain, which was proclaimed to be the end of the drought. Severe flooding occurred during June 15–16 along the northeastern flank of the Black Hills (Rapid City to Sturgis to Whitewood), with the most severe flooding in the Sturgis area.  Rapid City subsequently suffered additional but less severe flooding from another storm the next day.  The worst flooding of 1962 along Rapid Creek occurred several weeks later (July 13) and resulted in a peak flow of 3,300 cubic feet per second (ft3/s) for station 06414000 in Rapid City.  This is the second largest peak flow for this station, but is dwarfed by the 1972 peak flow of 50,000 ft3/s.  An exceptional peak flow of 2,920 ft3/s was determined for July 13 for Cleghorn Canyon, which is a very small drainage (area = 7.0 square miles) in west Rapid City.  A June 23, 1962, article in the Sturgis Tribune described the aftermath of flooding that occurred on June 16–17, 1962, in the Sturgis area. The article also reported that 14 inches of rain during a 6-hour period on June 15 in Whitewood.  A peak of record flow of 12,700 ft3/s occurred on June 16, 1962, at station 06437500 along Bear Butte Creek about 15 miles northeast of Sturgis.  Another peak of record flow occurred on June 16 at station 06433000 (16,400 ft3/s, drainage area = 920 square miles) along the Redwater River upstream from Belle Fourche.  Another large peak flow (3,120 ft3/s) occurred on June 17, 1962, at station 06425500 along Elk Creek near Elm Springs; however, the peak flow for the year (7,040 ft3/s) occurred on May 29 and another very large peak flow of 6,320 ft3/s occurred on May 21.  

A large peak flow of 3,040 ft3/s occurred at station 06431500 along Spearfish Creek on June 9, 1964.  Flooding occurred on May 15, 1965, in Deadwood, Spearfish, and Sturgis from heavy rain falling on as much as 30 inches of snow.  A peak flow of 4,240 ft3/s occurred along Spearfish Creek at Spearfish (station 06431500), and farther downstream a peak flow of 8,480 ft3/s occurred along the Redwater River above Belle Fourche (station 06433000).  On May 15, a peak of record flow of 2,060 ft3/s was recorded for Rapid Creek above Pactola Reservoir (station 06410500).



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

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