The death and devastation that came as a result of the massive June 1972 flood left a mark on Rapid City, South Dakota. What is lesser known are the effects the flood had on other areas of the Black Hills. Impacts were seen in four counties: Pennington, Meade, Lawrence, and Custer.

The Leland D. Case Library for Western Historical Studies at Black Hills State University holds archival collections which relate to the 1972 flood. This material includes photographs and slides that document some of the flood’s impacts outside of Rapid City. The majority of these images come from the Black Hills National Forest Historical Collection.

The Black Hills National Forest saw significant damage to its infrastructure. The flood damaged approximately 314 miles of Forest Services roads, along with nearly 50 bridges and other road-related structures. The agency also reported that 10 dams, 26 campground and picnic areas, and four other recreation facilities were either damaged or destroyed. In addition to infrastructure repairs, the Forest Service needed to clear debris and stabilize eroded areas such as stream channels.

The flood images have been digitized and are available through the Digital Library of South Dakota (, a cooperative project between seven universities. They include several shots of the Keystone area, both taken on the ground and from the air. One photograph shows a view of railroad tracks suspended in mid-air, with the supporting embankment washed away. Numerous aerial photographs show damage to roads and recreation facilities in the national forest. Flood water severely tested area dams, and aerial images reveal the degree to which they were compromised. 

The damage Victoria Dam, located southwest of Rapid City, sustained eventually led to its removal. Fort Meade Dam, near Sturgis, was also a casualty of the flood. Cleanup efforts by members of the Boxelder Job Corps, such as at the Bennett-Clarkson Hospital in Rapid City, are also documented.

In addition to the approximately 500 scanned images of the flood, Case Library also holds several reports and other records of its impacts and the resulting mitigation efforts within the national forest. The library is open to the public and individuals should contact the library in advance to schedule a visit to view the reports and other records. The 1972 flood images can be viewed online here.

If you have photographs related to the 1972 flood or other aspects of Black Hills history, the library accepts donations. For more information, contact Lori Terrill at 605-642-6361 or