Title: Not First Time Our Lake Was Waterless

ID: cdn.water.lake.0001

TEI-encoded XML: cdn.water.lake.0001.xml


Armour Herald: The water in Lake Andes is now at its lowest ebb since 1894, at which time it was completely dry. The earliest records available in regard to the history of the lake come to us from the soldiers of the Civil war, who under General Sulley fought the Sioux Indians in the Dakotas, following the outbreaks in Minnesota and the New Ulm massacre.

These troops, the 6th Iowa cavalry, were quartered at Fort Randall, during the winter of '62 and '63. The soldiers of this command say that during their campaigning in this country the weather was very hot and dry, and feed for their horses was very hard to get. Although they traversed the country for miles around the fort on both sides of the river, they were unable to find water anywhere except at the "Old Muddy". These boys left many records in the form of diaries, reports, etc., but no mention was ever made of a lake where Andes now is. J.W. Hewitt, one of Sully's troopers who passed away in 1917, said that he had hunted buffalo for miles north of the fort in 1863 and at that time our lake contained no water.

Though we are unable to locate any records in connection with the lake between 1863 and 1882, we find that in this last named year the lake ran over. The water it is said by old timers, ran north from Johnson's Bay into Arcon lake, which is partly located on the Gerald McGrath place south of Armour, thence north, then east and southeast into Choteau creek some distance south. It might be said in passing that the original survey for the spillway was from Johnson's Bay into Choteau Creek through Artesian Creek, which empties into Choteau.

From this time on the water receded, for in 1894, twelve years later the lake was dry again. The years prior to this were dry and hot, those who lived here at that time will verify this.

In "A History of South Dakota" by Frances Holley copyrighted in 1890, the author says of Andes lake: "It is situated in South Dakota, fifteen miles from Fort Randall, twelve miles from the Yankton Agency and seven miles from the smart town of Armour, the present terminus of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad (Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul and Pacific). It was named for Edward Andes, a surveyor for the American Fur Company. This lake is fifteen miles long, one and one-half miles wide, with an average depth of fifteen feet, and is in the form of a crescent. It has no visible outlet, but is fed by two creeks that drain a large area of country west and north; and there are no fish in the water, but a reptile, from ten to fifteen inches long, and termed the axolot. Around the lake there is a great abundance of game . . . Andes Lake is very nearly in the center of the Yankton Reserve; around its shady banks was the old camping ground on the trail to the Pipestone Quarry, from which the Indians for centuries have made their pipes.

It was also a famous resort for buffalo and important as a tanning place. Until within a comparatively short time the adjacent country was well timbered, where now there is only here and there a scanty, low growth; but along its shores plumed grasses nod and sway, as white winged gulls go by."

At this time the lake was on the wane, due to dry years which caused the hard times of 1894. After the period of drouth drought heavy snows filled the lake again to reach its peak in 1920 it nearly ran out a second time. Since then the water has steadily receded until now it is nearly dry.

The artesian well at the north end known as the Spot as well, is flowing as good as ever, but the water only spreads out on the mud flat and evaporates. The well across from Stony Point has been inactive for some years as also the well at the town of Lake Andes. There are two wells at the state hatchery.