Monday, April 29, 2013
Thursday, February 7, 2013
|Hydrologist Dan Driscoll recounting historic floods|
There was standing room only Tuesday night (2/5/13) as more than 100 people sandwiched themselves inside the Senior Citizen's Center in Spearfish to hear Dan Driscoll talk about flooding.
It's a topic all too familiar to many residents of the northern Black Hills, and memories of the devastating Rapid City flood of 1972 came back with little prompting as Driscoll gave the group an hour-long overview of historic floods in the Black Hills region.
An hydrologist with the U. S. Geological Survey in Rapid City, Driscoll has been very involved with studies relating to flood-frequency analysis. Well rooted in science, he provided members of the Spearfish Area Historical Society with a thumbnail sketch of how scientists go about measuring size and frequency of flooding -- underscoring the importance of historical data, while conceding that there's still a lot of uncertainty about flow estimates in flooding rivers.
Driscoll's presentation -- including links to historic flood photographs and information -- is reported on the web site of the Spearfish Area Historical Society. Read more here...
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Nippy temperatures dropped near freezing last night (10/6/12), putting a damper on the final Black Hills National Forest Moon Walk of the season.
But for the hardy group of about 40 souls who braved the frigid temperatures to ascend Mount Roosevelt, it was well worth the goose bumps.
Black Hills Professor David Wolff, the best-known and perhaps most knowledgeable historian to research the life and times of Seth Bullock, gave the gathered throng some keen insights into the man who befriended Theodore Roosevelt and years later launched the effort to build a memorial to Roosevelt when he died in 1919.
That memorial was a 31-foot tower with a 12-foot diameter built of native stone atop Sheep Mountain just north of Deadwood. The site was later renamed Mount Roosevelt, and the medieval-style tower has become dubbed "Friendship Tower," acknowledging the friendship between Bullock and President Roosevelt. The tower was constructed by the Society of Black Hills Pioneers at the behest of Bullock, who had earlier convinced the organization to accept Roosevelt as its first honorary member.
|BHSU professor David Wolff shared some stories|
about legendary Black Hills lawman Seth Bullock
The colorful life of Seth Bullock is recounted in Wolff's 2009 book, Seth Bullock - Black Hills Lawman.
This was the second presentation on Bullock in as many weeks for Wolff. He gave a similar presentation on September 23 to members of the Lawrence County Historical Society during their Fall Tour. You'll find a number of photographs and notes about that tour in the LCHS Gallery. That daylight tour provided some stunning views of the changing colors in the Hills, as well as a close-up look at the many enhancements that have been made to the "Friendship Tower" in recent years. You'll find those items well documented in a U.S. Forest Service video produced this summer. A link to that video is at the right-hand top of this page.
Despite the darkness, we took a few photos during the final Moon Walk of the year. You'll find them in our Moon Walk Gallery.
Kudos to Amy Ballard the staff of Black Hills National Forest for organizing and implementing these Moon Walks. Ballard has literally watched young Moon Walkers -- including her own kids -- grow up over the past 17 seasons of these events.
We can think of few activities that provide the kinds of opportunities these walks provide: a chance to bask in the beauty of the Black Hills; learn more about the history of our region; and get some good exercise in the great outdoors!
See you next season!
Sunday, September 9, 2012
Perhaps it was the splendid evening of cool temperatures and only a whisk of a breeze. Maybe it was the close proximity to Rapid City and a good speaker with a passion for his subject. It could have been our fascination with space and exploration. Or it might have been all of the above.
Whatever the reasons, it was likely a record-setting crowd of hikers that surrounded the historic Stratobowl near Mount Rushmore west of Rapid City last night (9/8/12) for the September Moon Walk sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service.
Coordinator Amy Ballard said it was a fantastic turnout.
As the group assembled along a Forest Service road adjacent to Mount Rushmore Road, Amy reminded the group that the Black Hills National Forest is unique. Not just for the Stratobowl, where high altitude balloons lifted off in 1934 and 1935 and moved man farther along in our exploration of space, but for some other powerful – if less flamboyant reasons.
First, she reminded the assembled group that more timber is cut in the Black Hills than in any other national forest. Secondly, more cattle graze on the Black Hills National Forest than graze on any other.
After a few housekeeping announcement, Amy introduced the crowd to Arley Fadness, a retired Lutheran minister, whose interest in flight may well be tracked back to the years even before he went to seminary. A native of Bristol, South Dakota, Fadness worked for Boeing while it was developing and producing the Bomarc Missiles back in the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Eventually, Fadness completed seminary work and ministered in several communities across eastern South Dakota and in Minnesota. He retired as pastor in Mankotao, Minnesota, and now lives in Custer, where has more time to pursue his passion for flight and writing. He also does a bit of pastoring, filling in most recently at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Spearfish.
After about a 45-minute trek along a two-path road to the northwest, the group arrived at the rim overlooking the Stratobowl.
“We are standing by a national treasure,” Fadness told the assembled group.
“This big round depression in the earth was and is like an ampitheatre waiting for the call of history.” You'll find a gallery of photographs from this event in our Moon Walk Gallery.
Fadness outlined the significant liftoffs from the site, including both Explorer I and Explorer II. Explorer II set an altitude record of 75,395 feet. Fadness then gave highlights about subsequent flights that emanated from what used to be known as “Moonlight Valley” before the Explorer flights took place. That was back in the days when the Bonanza Bar Mining Company was operating in the vicinity in the 1890’s and into the early Twentieth Century.
While the Army Air Corps was apparently a bit reluctant initially to get involved with the 1934 Explorer flight, they finally endorsed the endeavor – but they were unable to allocate enough funds to make it happen.
That’s when proponents approached the National Geographic Society, which along with Kodak and other private firms, provided funding for the event.
Fadness told how the selection of the site near Rapid City was not a slam-dunk. There were towns like North Platte, Nebraska; Lander, Wyoming; Denver, and other communities that were anxious to have the event take place near their hometowns.
In the end, Rapid City won out.
A virtual village popped up in the valley, and national publicity began to grow.
It achieved a new altitute record of 72,395 feet. Its crew were the first humans to see the curvature of the earth.
For an excellent detailed description of the Explorer I and II flights written by Gregory Kennedy, follow this link to Stratocat.
And for another evening of fun and history, join us for the October Moon Walk to the Friendship Tower on Mount Roosevelt just north of Deadwood. It'll be October 6 at 7:00 p.m.
And for another evening of fun and history, join us for the October Moon Walk to the Friendship Tower on Mount Roosevelt just north of Deadwood. It'll be October 6 at 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
The August Moon Walk along Cascade Creek in the southern Black Hills had to be cancelled in August because very dry conditions that have posed a continuing fire threat to the Black Hills and surrounding region. There were some manpower issues as well, but -- hopefully -- those issues are resolved and the seemingly always present fire threat will not force cancellation of the September Moon Walk.
Recreation Forester Amy Ballard tells us that the September 8th Moon Walk will take place on the eastern side of the Black Hills along the rim trail that overlooks the "Stratobowl." That's the location just a mile or so off Highway 16 going south out of Rapid City on the way to Mount Rushmore.
The Stratobowl was the site of the first successful launch of a stratospheric helium-filled balloon in the mid-1930's. The project was sponsored by the National Geographic Society and the U.S. Army Air Corps.
To reach the Moon Walk parking site from Rapid City, travel approximately eight miles west on Highway 16 to the Black Hills RV Service Center gas station on the right located just past Old MacDonald’s Farm. Forest personnel will meet participants at the RV Service Center and hike to the rim from there. The Forest Service road accessing the Stratobowl rim is just south of this parking area.
The Forest Service suggests that visitors bring flashlights, water, and bug repellant and dress for unexpected weather and hiking on uneven land. Long pants and sturdy footwear (hiking boots or athletic shoes) are recommended for your comfort and safety.
The program may be cancelled unexpectedly for unforeseen reasons such as lightning, high fire danger forecasts and other reasons beyond control. The program will not be cancelled due to rain unless lightning is spotted. Please arrive early to aid in parking vehicles as 140 visitors per walk have been attending the programs this summer.
For more information about the program and summer schedule go to www.fs.usda.gov/blackhills or call the Black Hills National Forest at 605-343-1567.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
|Miller Cabin is just north of Deerfield Reservoir.|
July and August can be pretty hot and miserable months for hiking. We’ve already had some of that misery–and there'll likely be more on the way.
But last Saturday night (7/7/12) was spectacular. It was a cool evening with absolutely no wind. There were clouds in the sky, but just enough to make it interesting for the 150 or so people who gathered on knoll just a few miles north of Deerfield Reservoir in the central Black Hills. It was in this same vicinity of Reynolds Prairie that we gathered just over a year ago to examine wild flowers.
There was an abundance of wild flowers on this hike, too. But our mission this time was to visit the rustic Miller Cabin, built over a century ago in a high country meadow about 20 miles west northwest of Hill City. We took several photos on this outing, and you'll find them posted in our Moon Walk Gallery.
John A. Miller was among the influx of pioneers who came to the Black Hills in the 1870’s in search of gold. Born in Sweden in 1850, the Millers arrived in the United States in about 1868. Census documents indicate that John and his wife Josephine lived in Illinois, Iowa, and then Phillips County, Kansas, before arriving in the Black Hills of Dakota Territory in the mid 1870’s.
After the initial gold boom in the central hills “fizzled” and most miners set their sights on gold strikes in the Lead and Deadwood area, Miller decided to buy a ranch near Castle Creek in 1882, according to the U. S. Forest Service. He apparently was looking at other ways that he might make his fortune, and the land near Castle Creek also just happened to be along the Cheyenne to Deadwood stage route. Miller apparently saw opportunity in operating a stage stop that would cater to the needs of folks who were in transit.
“He could offer fresh horses, meals and lodging to travelers, and even make repairs,” for those making the trek along the route, according to Salisbury.
And since the area was well suited for growing succulent grasses for livestock forage, and Miller could also sell stock animals to miners.
Census records indicate that John and Josephine raised five sons – John, Jr., Manfred, Emil, Frank, Edward, and Charles. The 1920 census records list John and Josephine Miller – and their grown son, Frank – as residing at that Miller residence in Mountain City.
On New Year’s Eve Day in 1933, John A. Miller died. It was a tough time for the Miller family – and a tough time for the nation. The Depression years, fueled by a severe drought, virtually clobbered agriculture in the U.S. heartland.
“The U.S. government stepped in,” said Salisbury, “part of the Works Progress Administration with the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Bureau of Reclamation began looking at areas of South Dakota that had decent creeks running into them….where they could impound water and stave off another Dust Bowl.”
A “water storage project” was created along Castle Creek, requiring the removal of Mountain City (Deerfield). The community sat smack dab in the middle of what was to become Deerfield Reservoir.
The sign that sits in front of the Miller Cabin today says “The Millers, after receiving a settlement for their lands soon to inundated by the rising waters, sold their remaining land to the Anderson family.”
|Kids of all ages enjoy the Moon Walks!|
Ken Anderson of Hill City was on hand for this Moon Walk, and he shared both some photographs and memories about the cabin – and later lumbered through the cabin with members of our entourage, answering questions.
The old Miller cabin has special meaning for Anderson on several levels. Of course, it was an ancestral home – and one with lots of history behind it. Too, the old cabin was the site of his marriage to Elizabeth nearly 36 years ago, on July 24, 1976.
Lots of history and lots of fun for this third Moon Walk of 2012.
Next month, walkers will congregate near Cascade Creek in the southern Black Hills as a Forest Hydrologist leads us through the Whitney Preserve while discussing some of the unique features of the area.
Moon Walk coordinator Amy Ballard says, “If it’s a hot day, come early to take a dip in the popular swimming hole at this picnic area.” Mark your calendar for Saturday, August 4th, for the next Moon Walk to Cascade Falls south of Hot Springs.
Saturday, June 30, 2012
by Larry Miller
Good friend Don Matthesen and I had been ruminating for some time about a trip into the Belle Fourche Irrigation District country to visit his old stomping grounds.....and to visit to the Newell Museum.
We finally made the trip yesterday (6/29/12) and it was delightful day.
After driving a back road route to Nisland -- via the old Dane Church -- we enjoyed some burgers and fries at the Nisland Cafe before setting off for Newell.
For a community that claims only about 800 souls, the Newell Museum is a real surprise. Despite a few newspapers articles about the museum in recent months, we were the only visitors on this sizzling Friday afternoon. Of course, it was a weekday, and younger folks are at work. We're a couple of retirees -- but even most of the folks in our age category have enough sense to stay home on hot afternoons!
Nonetheless, we were pleasantly greeted by Museum Curator Linda Velder, who spent much of her afternoon giving us a tour of the museum, co-located with town offices on 3rd Street in Newell.
|Linda Velder is the Curator at the Newell Museum.....a "must-see" destination!|
We suspected that the museum might have more items than you might expect in such a small community, and we were right! The museum is spread out in four different buildings -- and there's a newer storage building on the back of the property containing items "not yet ready for prime time."
The ground floor of the main museum is chock full of artifacts and documents that should delight any history buff. While space is sparse for conducting research, many people have already utilized the variety of school yearbooks, family histories, and other historical publications that are nestled in a front corner of the museum.
Don was able to forage through quite a bit of Matthesen information; of course, since he'd attended school in this vicinity as a youngster, he was familiar with many of the family names and businesses in the area. I'm still a bit of a newcomer, but I thoroughly enjoyed delving into the variety of displays and memorabilia.
Most of the items relate to the early settlers and businesses of the area, and there's quite a bit about the U.S. Reclamation Service (USRS), which played a key role in helping develop the irrigation district. Named for the first USRS chief engineer Frederick Haynes Newell, the town was established in 1910. For more than a century now, irrigation waters have been the lifeblood of this area stretching eastward from Orman Dam on the plains at the northern end of the Black Hills.
We'll not recount all the fascinating things you'll find in the museum, but we'd be remiss if we didn't mention the superb doll collection that's displayed on the second floor of the museum. We're told that there are more than 800 dolls, antique toys, and numerous other artifacts from bygone eras. There're also replicas of a medical clinic, an old bathing room, a judge's chambers, and more.
And that's all just in the main museum.
In separate buildings you'll find an impressively outfitted cabin that was built in 1880 on Horse Creek and served as home for the Johannes Flaigg family.
The One Room Schoolhouse will transport you to another era when education seemed a bit more straightforward -- and some might say better! If the pot-bellied stove, chalk boards, and old desks don't nudge your nostalgia, the meticulously assembled school census records available in the old Wetz School building will remind you that this was an important part of education -- and life -- for generations past.
And although it was a Congregational Church when it was built in 1911, the Church Museum on the lot behind the Newell Museum is very ecumenical these days -- and very impressive. While curator Linda Velder laments the laundry list of things yet to done in this and other museum areas, we think there's also good cause for her and the citizens of Newell to rejoice at such a remarkable resource in their community.
Numerous folks have contributed items and funds to help make this museum one of the best -- if yet least known -- museums in the region.
We have a feeling that'll change in the coming months and years -- as it should.
We've started this small gallery of photos from our excursion. See: Newell Museum. We hope to add to it in the near future.
Congratulations to Linda Velder and the Town of Newell for their vision in developing this institution. With more promotion......and community involvement......current and future generations can gain a better understanding and appreciation for their ancestors and their significant contributions to this region.