Receding waters in South Dakota

  • 01

    Many areas were hard-hit by drought in 2012. There’s one area, though, where less rainfall was actually welcomed in 2012. Northeastern South Dakota still has plenty of water due to massive flooding in 2010 and 2011. The good news is drier weather in 2012 helped waters recede.

  • 02

    This trilogy of shots sums up what’s been occurring. This intersection is on the Marshall and Brown County line, about a mile from my home farm. Water was lapping up to the ditches in June 2011.

  • 03

    It wasn’t perfect, but the water had gone down when I next visited the intersection in June 2012. An open winter helped matters considerably.

  • 04

    The news was even better when I visited the intersection in November 2012. Although not completely dry, the 1.5 years that have elapsed and drier weather has resulted in significantly lower floodwaters.

  • 05

    This dual series of shots show how the water has receded on my family’s farm. This booming pothole pretty much summed up the way things went in 2011. This once-productive field was littered with potholes full of cattails and ducks. This was the result of 16 inches of rain falling in October 2009 and two subsequent winters with 90-inch snowfall totals.

  • 06

    Here’s the same area in July 2012. Precipitation was more scant in the area this year compared to preceding years. That gave potholes a chance to dry out. Meanwhile, abundant subsoil moisture coupled with timely summer rains produced excellent yields.

  • 07

    A dry fall this year made for a timely harvest, with an abundance of corn residue blanketing the soil. I wondered, though, how the combination of a bumper crop coupled with a dry fall impacted soil moisture.

  • 08

    A plunge of a soil probe into the soil eased those concerns. I wondered if I would be able to plunge the probe easily into the soil.

  • 09

    I had to use both hands to plunge it into the soil, but I got it in.

  • 10

    What’s more, the entire length of my 21-inch soil probe was filled with moisture. I was able to make a ribbon out of the Beotia silt loam soil that forms 80% of this field. A 2-inch rain a few days before helped recharge the soil profile.

  • 11

    The disappearance of floodwaters still has a long way to go, though. This area is known to locals as “The Slough.” If a photo of this water would have been taken 40 years ago, it would have revealed some of the county’s best cropland. Buried under this slough are 160 acres that my dad used to farm.

  • 12

    One bright spot is that there is a “beach” that’s been formed by receding waters. It still has a long way to go, but the hope is this area will one day return to cropland. Everyone hopes it is sooner than later.

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