Pactola is a place to enjoy life. The lake sets within the backdrop of the Black Hills of South Dakota. Outdoor fun is in every direction.

Pactola Lake

Pactola Lake History

Pactola Lake is on US 385, 11 miles north of Hill City. 
Beneath the lake is the town of Pactola, first settled in 1875. The settlement was later referred to as Camp Crook, named after General Crook who made his headquarters there while chasing miners out of the Hills in 1876 for the land belonged to the Sioux. It wasn't long before the white man took the land for himself. In early 1877, as many as 300 miners were working the rich placer deposits and the town was renamed Pactola after the ancient Greek placer workings on the river Pactolus. For many years the town was served by the Black Hills & Western Railroad, and was famous both as a mining town and a resort. Downstream from Pactola Lake is an ancient cabin that still marks the area where Pactola and its placers prospered.


The underwater town of Pactola

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. 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.  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.

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 Methodis Camp.  When Pactola Dam was built in 1956 these historic sites were drowned under the reservoir.  Many acres of land were condemmed 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.

The water levels of Pactola vary from season to season.  The lake once again reached 100% capacity in Spring of 2014.





 

HistoryPactola Lake is on US 385, 11 miles north of Hill City. Beneath the lake is the town of Pactola, first settled in 1875. The settlement was later referred to as Camp Crook, named after General Crook who made his headquarters there while chasing miners out of the Hills in 1876 for the land belonged to the Sioux. It wasn't long before the white man took the land for himself. In early 1877, as many as 300 miners were working the rich placer deposits and the town was renamed Pactola after the ancient Greek placer workings on the river Pactolus. For many years the town was served by the Black Hills & Western Railroad, and was famous both as a mining town and a resort. Downstream from Pactola Lake is an ancient cabin that still marks the area where Pactola and its placers prospered.

ConstructionConstruction of Pactola Dam began November 25, 1952, and was completed on August 15, 1956. Pactola Dam is a zoned earthfill structure, 230 feet high, 40 feet wide at the crest, and 1,255 feet long. It has an open-cut channel spillway in the left abutment with a 240-foot uncontrolled concrete crest and a design capacity of 38,400 cubic feet per second. The outlet works consist of a concrete horseshoe-shaped tunnel through the left abutment with two high-pressure slide gates. There are two dikes to the left of the spillway having a total crest length of 2,100 feet. Pactola Reservoir has a total storage capacity of 99,000 acre-feet, of which 43,000 acre-feet is exclusive flood control storage, regulated by the Corps of Engineers. Conservation storage amounts to 55,000 acre-feet; dead and inactive storages total 1,000 acre-feet. Water surface area at spillway crest level is 1,232 acres

GeologyPactola Dam is situated at a point along Rapid Creek where the valley narrows and the creek has cut through a resistant, northwest trending ridge. Rocks at the dam consist of a complex series of schists, slates and amphibolites lying in nearly vertical beds which strike in a northwest direction. There is a small fold in the right abutment that modifies the strike of the beds and causes the axis of the dam to cross some beds twice. The schistosity for the most part parallels the original bedding. The amphibolite schist rocks are hard, jointed and usually weathered to shallow depths. The slate beds contain abundant iron pyrite which weathers readily above the water table.








IrrigationThe Rapid Valley Unit of the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program consists of Pactola Dam and Reservoir located on Rapid Creek about 15 miles west of Rapid City, South Dakota. There are 8,900 acres of privately developed land and the associated irrigation diversion and supply works in the Rapid Valley Water Conservancy District. The land is situated along Rapid Creek immediately downstream from Rapid City for a distance of about 20 miles and is provided a supplemental irrigation water supply from Pactola Reservoir. The reservoir provides the major supply of water for Rapid City, including Ellsworth Air Force Base, and flood protection along Rapid Creek. Fish and wildlife benefits also are provided, along with water-based recreation opportunities.Pactola Reservoir

supplements the supply of stored water available from Deerfield Reservoir (Rapid Valley Project). Thus a full water supply is provided for irrigation and municipal purposes.

Supplemental stored water is available to the 8,900 acres of irrigated land within the Rapid Valley Water Conservancy District. Under present conditions, the integrated irrigation-dryland farms produce corn, alfalfa, small grains, and pasture. The principal products contribute to a stable feed supply for stock cow herds and fattening of cattle.

Municipal and Industrial WaterThe major portion of the municipal water needs for Rapid City, including the Ellsworth Air Force Base, is provided from storage in Pactola Reservoir.

Recreation and Fish and WildlifeNumerous facilities associated with outdoor recreation are provided at Pactola Reservoir, including picnic grounds, campgrounds, and boat ramp developments, in addition to a visitor center and scenic overlooks. The recreation areas are administered by the Forest Service. The combined cold and warm water fishery at the reservoir is maintained by the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks.

Flood ControlPactola Reservoir provides flood protection benefits to Rapid City and to agricultural lands and rural and suburban developments along Rapid Creek. Pactola Reservoir has an exclusive flood control capacity of 43,057 acre-feet and a surcharge capacity of 41,892 acre-feet for a total flood capacity of 84,949 acre feet and, as of 1998, has prevented $2.9 million in flood damages.

Interesting Info:The large ranch home which houses eternal Christmas was originally located in the town of Pactola, now at the bottom of Pactola Lake about ten miles north on Hwy 385. With the construction of the lake in 1958, the entire town of Pactola was packed up and hauled out, the individual buildings now scattered about the local area.

Pactola Valley included the community of Pactola, Camp Wanzer (a health facility for TB patients), and CCC Camp Pactola. The name "Pactola" derives from the River Pactolus in Greek mythology. When Pactola Dam was built in 1956 these historic sites were buried under the reservoir.

Pactola is the largest lake in the Black Hills and one of the most beautiful anywhere. It boasts a state record lake trout at 27 lbs, 14 oz, caught in July 2003. Fishermen (and women, too) catch brown trout (many over 20 inches) and rainbow trout (there are thousands, typically from 10 to 20 inches). There are lots of pan fish -- blue gills, rock bass, crappy, and perch -- and a few large-mouth bass. If you are hoping for a record-breaking trout, the cooler months of May, June, September, and October will provide your best opportunities. But anglers regularly fill out their limits throughout the summer.

Pactola Lake is famous for its crystal clear water. Visibility on most days is 20 to 25 feet. With this type of water, it's only natural that Pactola is very popular with water skiers and all boating enthusiasts. Scuba divers also come from all over the country to enjoy the clear, unpolluted water of this lake and visit some of the artifacts remaining from the days before the reservoir was flooded.


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