About Pactola

Pactola Lake is the largest
reservoir in the Black Hills of South
Dakota.  At the bottom of Pactola
Lake is the submerged town of
Pactola, an old mining camp and
site of several military bivouacs
during the original settlement of
the Black Hills in the mid-1870s.

The lake is located on Rapid Creek
and provides the water supply for
Rapid City.  It is owned and
operated by the U S Bureau of
Reclamation, with the various
recreational facilities operated by
the US Forest Service, and is one
of the recreational areas of Black
Hills National Forest.  Boating and
fishing are very popular, with a
walk-in fly-fishing area located on
Rapid Creek below the dam.
Pactola Lake looking west
Precipitation and weather for Pactola
Current and historical water level for Pactola
Pactola stats
Jenny Gulch - no alcohol allowed
Useful links:

Ever since the first settlers established Pactola, it has been a place for
recreation.  It is one of the oldest settlements in Pennington County.
Soon after the discovery of gold in the creek beds, prospectors and
miners began to flock into this pleasant valley until it became a populous,
thriving community. For a short period of time, Pactola was the actually
the seat on County government.

Owing to its isolation in the heart of the Hills, there was little law
enforcement and the valley became the hiding place for many who,
for various reasons, did not wish their whereabouts known. The miners
made and administered their own law, but the two things they would not
tolerate were claim-jumping and horse-stealing. (WPA, 409)

At first the valley was called "0" Valley, because of its round shape.  In 1876 General Crook with his
United States Cavalry, on their way to fight the Indians, made his headquarters here and called it
Camp Crook. The development of placer mines, together with the establishment of the first post
office in Pennington Co., and a tri-weekly stage service, made things boom; so the populace
decided that the camp should have a more
appropriate name. A mass meeting was called, and a lawyer who had recently moved into the
community was asked to make the nominating speech. Having had a number of drinks and feeling
fanciful he recited the legend of Midas; whose touch turned everything to gold; and he proposed,
in view of the gold being taken from the sands of Rapid Creek, that the place should be called
Pactola, for the Lydian river Pactolus, whose  golden sands were believed to be the source of the
wealth of Croesus. (WPA, 409)

Around Pactola there was also a CCC camp (Civilian Conservation Corps)
as well as other camps such as the Presbyterian Church Camp, Falvin's
Corner, Camp Judson, and the Methodist Camp.  When Pactola Reservoir
was started to be built in 1953, these historic sites were drowned under
the reservoir.  Many acres of land were condemned by the government in
preparation for the building of the dam and the flooding of the valley. It was
deemed at the time that no new buildings for human habitation were to be
built upstream of Pactola below the elevation of 4,621.5 feet.  Many of
the cabins and buildings that were to be flooded were moved (some to
Silver City) and the remaining are now rotting underwater and providing
sights for the scuba divers that sometime take to Pactola Lake.
Pactola flood circa 1902-1908 - BHNF
Pactola flood circa 1902-1908 - BHNF. Looking SW standing near present-day dam. Flume was either part of power plant further downstream or for a flour mill below Hisega.
Pactola flood circa 1902-1908 - BHNF
Pactola flood circa 1902-1908 - BHNF. Looking Straight West. Flavins on the background. Probably Sherman's on the right.
Pactola store
Pactola Valley before Dam - BHNF
Pactola Valley. The flume carried water to Placerville for gold mining and later to Big Bend where the Dakota Power Company developed a hydro-plant.
Pactola Valley before Dam - BHNF
Photo Gallery:
1948(maybe much earlier) - Pactola Valley with a line indicating future location of the dam. Facing ENE. Musecamp restaurant & bar (during prohibition)
1948 Musekamp Residence - Pactola - Courtesy SD History
1948 - Pactola landscape - Facing East - Courtesy SD History. Hi Way Camp Store (Musecamp)
1930's View of the town of Pactola - Store at left - Courtesy Jack Soesbe
1954 Pactola - Courtesy Jan Sohl
1954 Pactola - Courtesy Jan Sohl
1954 Pactola - Courtesy Jan Sohl
May 2011 - Lake full
May 2011 - 3rd Highest water level ever
Flavins Corner - Date unknown
Late 20's, early 30's. Pactola Valley - Courtesy Glen Lakner
Late 20's, early 30's. Pactola Valley - Courtesy Glen Lakner. Looking South
LAte 1940's or early 50's? Facing NE. Courtesy John Clark as shown in RCJ. See accompanying note. Dance Hall
Pactola Valle - Photo on RCJ (Jan. 2000). Looking NW
Early 50's - Pactola Dam Construction - Courtesy USFS
Early 50's - Pactola Dam - Courtesy USFS
1937 Pactola Ranger Station - Just West of Musecamp off of old Hwy 385.
1948(maybe much earlier) - Pactola Valley with a line indicating future location of the dam.
Facilities include a marina, improved swimming beach, campgrounds and group campground on the South areas
including the Jenney Gulch Recreation area by Silver City (see
Friends of Jenny Gulch).  In the summer, the
USFS operates a visitor center on the dam, immediately off US Highway 385. The dam across Rapid Creek is very
large, and was enlarged following the Black Hills Flood of 1972; lake water levels vary enormously, as the lake is
used for flood control, domestic water, streamflow maintenance, and irrigation.

Boating (both power and sail), canoing, fishing, swimming, and other outdoor activities are popular in the summer;
in wintertime, ice-fishing, ice-skating, and some cross-country skiing is popular.
1954 Pactola - Courtesy Jan Sohl
1950s - Pactola Lake
1950s - Pactola Lake
1950s Pactola Lake
1950s Pactola Lake
1950s Pactola Lake
1950s Pactola Lake
1906 Picnic Train in Pactola - Courtesy South Dakota History
1927 - Letter sent from Pactola. The post office was in oeparation until the early 50's.
1937 Moosecamp Park Post Card
1945 Falvin's Corner - Courtesy of Rick Flavin
1931 Hiway Camp Store
1931 Postcard - Pactola
Late '20s? Pactola Hiway Store
A cabin on the Presbyterian Camp that used to sit on Boarding House Gulch - (Early 1940's)
Pactola Lake