1972 Flood: ‘Remember, Honor and Commemorate’
By Steve Allender, Mayor of Rapid City
It has been 50 years – a half century – since floodwaters cascaded through canyons along west Highway 44 and into Rapid City, forging a path of destruction that included the collapse of Canyon Lake Dam, claiming 238 lives and destroying thousands of homes and businesses. It is an event that would forever impact our citizens and our community.
As the years have passed, there are fewer survivors to share their first-hand accounts and experiences from that tragic night, and the weeks and months of recovery that followed. We honor the lives of those who were lost in the 1972 flood, which impacted not only Rapid City but surrounding Black Hills communities. We also pay tribute to the heroes of our community – the first responders and citizens alike who rescued hundreds of people from the raging waters, and who worked tirelessly in the days, weeks and months ahead on efforts to move forward.
As we remember and honor the victims, survivors and citizens of Rapid City of 1972, we also honor the dedication and commitment of our community – its citizens and leaders – for their efforts since June 1972. From a night of calamity and destruction came years of recovery and growth, with an eye to the future. The area where flood waters cut a path of destruction and devastation 50 years ago, now includes a 10-mile bike path, parks, playgrounds, pools and recreation facilities. The best tribute and commitment we can make to the 238 victims of the 1972 flood is do all we can to make sure the City’s greenway remains preserved and protected for our community residents and visitors to experience and enjoy, guarding against the improper development along the flood pathway.
To our citizens and our visitors, we welcome you to Rapid City this summer. We invite and encourage you to join with us as we ‘Remember, Honor and Commemorate’.