Drought impacts river levels across South Dakota

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A little over two months ago the state of South Dakota was already in the midst of a drought, now the conditions have only worsened in most areas. One area where the drought impact can be seen is in the shift in river levels across the state.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) keeps track of streamflow levels, weighing them on a scale ranging from flow levels of much below normal to much above normal.

On May 5, the only one stream, the south fork of the Bad River near Cottonwood, SD was rated as much below normal.

As of July 9, there are now three sections of stream rated as much below normal: The Belle Fourche River at the Wyoming/South Dakota border, the Cheyenne River below the Angostura Dam, and the Vermillion River near Vermillion.

Use the slider below to view a comparison of river levels between May and July.

May to July comparison of USGS streamflow data for South Dakota

In May, all three of these sections had been rated only at ‘below normal’. As of July 9, the south fork of the Bad River near Cottonwood was ‘not ranked. According to the USGS, a rating of ‘not ranked’ is commonly attributable to insufficient historical data or no current streamflow estimates.

USGS stream sections rated at much below normal

Ratings of ‘high’ and ‘low’ are used by the USGS to denote that streamflow is at the highest or lowest levels ever measured for that day of the year. Currently no stream segments are registering at those points.

Below we have a full breakdown of the status of each stream section tracked by the USGS as of July 9, 2021.

Notes: There are currently no sections listed at much above normal; ‘not ranked’ sections will not be listed.

Above normal

  • Little White River below White River
  • South fork of Grand River near Cash
  • Rhodes Fork near Rochford
  • Castle Creek above Deerfield Reservoir near Hill City
  • Fall River at Hot Springs


  • Missouri River at Sioux City, IA
  • Big Sioux River at Akron, IA
  • West fork of the Vermillion River near Parker
  • Skunk Creek at Sioux Falls
  • Big Sioux River near Brookings
  • Big Sioux River near Castlewood
  • Big Sioux River at Watertown
  • Big Sioux River near Watertown
  • Yellow Bank River near Odessa, MN
  • Whetstone River near Big Stone City
  • James River at Columbia
  • Elm River at Westport
  • Maple River at ND/SD state line
  • Firesteel Creek near Mount Vernon
  • Bazile Creek near Niobrara, NE
  • Ponca Creek at Verdel, NE
  • Platte Creek near Platte
  • Grand River at Little Eagle
  • Moreau River near Faith
  • Little Missouri River at Camp Crook
  • Redwater River above Belle Fourche
  • Redwater Creek at WY/SD state line
  • Spearfish Creek at Spearfish
  • Whitewood Creek near Whitewood
  • Little Spearfish Creek near Lead
  • Bear Butte Creek near Deadwood
  • Boxelder Creek near Nemo
  • Belle Fourche River near Sturgis
  • Elk Creek near Rapid City
  • Belle Fourche River near Elm Springs
  • Rapid Creek above Pactola Reservoir at Silver City
  • Castle Creek below Deerfield Dam
  • Spring Creek near Keystone
  • Battle Creek near Keystone
  • Rapid Creek near Farmingdale
  • Cheyenne River near Wasta
  • Battle Creek at Hermosa
  • Grace Coolidge Creek near Game Lodge near Custer
  • French Creek above Fairburn
  • Battle Creek below Hermosa
  • Beaver Creek near Buffalo Gap
  • Cheyenne River near Spencer, WY
  • Cheyenne River near Edgemont
  • White River near Oglala
  • White River near Kadoka
  • Little White River near Martin
  • Lake Creek below Refuge near Tuthill
  • Little White River near Vetal
  • Little White River near Rosebud
  • Keya Paha River near Keyapaha
  • Keya Paha River at Wewela

Below normal

  • Bois de Sioux River near White Rock
  • Little Minnesota River near Peever
  • Minnesota River at Ortonville, MN
  • Big Sioux River near Florence
  • James River near Stratford
  • James River at Ashton
  • James River near Redfield
  • James River at Huron
  • James River near Forestburg
  • Big Sioux River near Dell Rapids
  • Split Rock Creek at Corson
  • Big Sioux River at North Cliff Avenue at Sioux Falls
  • Big Sioux River at Sioux Falls
  • James River near Scotland
  • White River near Oacoma
  • Bad River near Fort Pierre
  • Cheyenne River near Plainview
  • Moreau River near Whitehorse
  • North fork of Grand River near White Butte
  • Belle Fourche River near Fruitdale
  • Whitewood Creek above Vale
  • Whitewood Creek above Whitewood
  • Rapid Creek below Pactola Dam
  • Rapid Creek above Canyon Lake near Rapid City
  • Rapid Creek at Rapid City

Much below normal

  • Vermillion River near Vermillion
  • Belle Fourche River at WY/SD state line
  • Cheyenne River below Angostura Dam

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