Beaver Lake State Park, located in south central North Dakota is one of the oldest state parks in the state and has a rich and unique local history attached to it. It was founded by local citizens of the surrounding counties of Logan, McIntosh and McHenry in honor of the original settlers of the area.
On July 14th, 1929 a meeting was held in Shepard's (a local landowner) pavilion to form a organization dedicated to the founding and management of a recreation area. The goal of this meeting was to establish By-Laws and to write Articles of incorporation that would get the ball rolling for the establishment of the park. This first meeting was fruitful and it led to the drafting of those laws and articles only two weeks later on July 28th 1929 . With the By-Laws and articles written a park board could was formed from local leaders and landowners and they begin the process of putting the park together.
A.H. Haut-Vice President
Wm. A. Arntz-Secretary
Fred B Heath-Treasurer
One of the first actions the board took was purchasing the desired land on the western shore of Beaver Lake. Wm. A Artntz the secretary of the park board was tasked with contacting Eva A. Reed the owner of the land. He wrote to her in Mobile, Alabama to inquire about purchasing the land and through various correspondences a deal was struck and 143 acres* of the original park was purchased for $1,437.00. While the deal was done and the purchase papers filed on August 25th, 1930 it wasnt until July of 1932 that the final deeds and abstracts for the land ware approved by the board and the park was dedicated.
Building of the Park: 1933-1951
With the Parks land now fully in the boards hands it now had to be improved with facilities to make it attractive to users. A couple of the attractions already in place include on the land included the "fastest" 1/2 mile horse track in the area and a baseball diamond. While they were great for day events the board had notions to make it friendlier for longer term stays. With that in mind the board put in an application to the local County Emergency Relief Program on December 1st, 1933 for labour and funds to improve the park. There application was approved but only to the extent of 1000 man hours and no more than 15 employees at a time. With these funds and manpower secured improvements such as piers, a monument, roads, and picnic area were built. Also during this time period a dam was constructed across Big Beaver Creek in order to impound water and raise the level of the lake. These improvements greatly improved accessibility and usability of the park for everyone. The Park existed for a time under the supervision of the park board and a manager/caretaker that was responsible for the upkeep of the park. These managers were provided a stone cabin built on the premise to live in during their tenure. This cabin purchased from O.F Arntz in 1952 and had been built on one of the lots sold at the parks founding to secure funds for the purchase of the land. One of the final large improvements of the park was to work with the Rural Electrification Administration and get electricity brought out to the park in 1952 for the price of $48 per year.
Time of Change: 1970-1980
The 1970's was a period of great change for the park as it underwent a transfer of ownership and a complete redesign of the park facilities and camping areas. During the 70's the park was transferred from the care of the State Historical Society to a newly formed ND Parks and Recreation department* to be included in a system of state parks. As part of this transfer new camping facilities were built on the horse race track that had sat on the park land since the 1910's but had not been seriously used since the 1950's. In addition to the new camping sites available, many primitive and all the horse camping sites were removed to create more public space and picnic grounds for day users. Finally to the great satisfaction of all the users a comfort station complete with hot water and flush toilets were installed, greatly improving a persons stay at the park for all weather conditions.
Troubling Times: 1980's-Early 2000's
With all the improvements completed a bright future was predicted for Beaver Lake State Park. It however ran into troubles with mismanagement, loss of revenue, state budget concerns, poor usage rates and other numerous. This all led to the decline of the park throughout the 80's and into the early 90's until it reached the point where something needed to be done. At first the state Parks Department considered the park a loss and tried to get a local city or county to take control of it. When none would the department was forced to make some changes to get the Beaver Lake back on its feet. In order to save the park two major issues had to be rectified. The first was they could not get any managers to stay at the park long enough to make serious changes. This was due to the seasonal nature of the position at the time, with only 6 months of work available it was nearly impossible to entice someone to stay. The ND State Parks Department decided a full time manager was needed to bring to the park back to its former glory. The next issue that needed to be fixed was the lack of funds available to the park for maintaining its facilities and building new ones. With more funds appropriated and a full time manager in place the park began the slow process of rebuilding and cleaning up its image.
Beaver Lake Today
After a few seasons of well deserved and needed attention, Beaver Lake State Park has been restored to the condition that attracted the original settlers of the area and the park founders. Since the early 2000's new trails have been built, a new updated comfort station was installed, they put in new playground equipment and built an office building for the park manager and the seasonal staff to help manage the park. Beaver Lake State Park has prospered under full-time management and good funding and looks to continue that way for many years to come.
While many things have changed in the time since the original park founders the spirit of the park remains. It serves as a community hub and hosts many local campers and events throughout the summer. Quite often people stop in just for the night and end up staying the weekend or a week, entranced by the quiet and beauty of the park. So if you are ever on a back road in southern North Dakota and you see a sign for Beaver Lake State Park don't be afraid to stop by, you wont regret it.
* I found many different acreages indicated for the amount of land purchased. I decided to include the one found in the park board minutes.
* I do not believe this department had the same title back in the 70's but i was unable to find a source for what that actually was.
Interview with Park Manager
Reviewed Park Board Minutes