Why Is The Rapid Creek Watershed Important?
Rapid Creek is also the water source for Rapid City — the state’s second-largest city — and Ellsworth Air Force Base.
Rapid river furnishes the finest trout fishing, one having to walk only a few blocks from the business center of Rapid City to enjoy the sport.” - Rapid City Journal, 1910
On April 14, 2020, Rapid Creek was named one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers by the national organization American Rivers. Rapid Creek, called Mniluzahan by the Lakota, is a world-class trout fishery and the heart of outdoor recreation in the central Black Hills.
Rapid Creek is also the water source for Rapid City — the state’s second-largest city — and Ellsworth Air Force Base. It feeds the area’s groundwater and flows clean and free from the Black Hills National Forest out onto the Great Plains. It flows into the Cheyenne River, and then into the Missouri River.
The Creek was named “Most Endangered” because it is critically threatened by gold exploration and the potential for toxic mining. Gold mining means water pollution, often permanently. Pollution from past gold mining in the northern Black Hills can be found 170 miles east in the Missouri River. Two gold sites in the northern Black Hills have been declared “Superfund” sites, among the most polluted places in the country. Pollutants include acid mine drainage, lead, arsenic, and the cyanide used to process gold.
Using the water source for Rapid City and Ellsworth Air Force Base for gold mining doesn’t make sense. Toxic mining spills could destroy the area’s tourism and outdoor recreation economy and make local water undrinkable. Keeping the Rapid Creek watershed for its current major use, outdoor recreation, makes sense. If we’re going to create a recreation area and stop mining in the Rapid Creek watershed, now is the time to act.
It will take everyone raising their voices to protect our
“Most Endangered River” and our outdoor recreation opportunities.
Gold Mining Claims Riddle the Watershed.
Mineral Mountain Resources (yellow) has claims on approximately 7500 acres. F3 Gold (red) has almost 2500 claims.
The Rapid Creek watershed west of Rapid City in the Black Hills is approximately 198,000 acres. And about 47,000 acres of that watershed have been claimed by gold companies. In other words, almost a quarter of the watershed – 73 square miles – has the potential to be involved in further exploration and mining operations.