Supporting our Lake

Lake Levels

After a few years of a very high water table, we face a very low water table for 2022.  As of March 2022, the lake level was at roughly 1082, 5-6 feet below our target lake level.  We thank you all for your patience in dealing with getting water into the lake! Let’s take a look at many of the events throughout time that affected McCook Lake.
  • 1982:  The state declares the “Ordinary High Water Mark” as 1090.7.  This dictates how close buildings and structures can be to the lake.
  • 1987: The MLA constructs a dam at the south end of the lake to help combat excess seepage.
  • Late 1990’s -2011:  The MLA board target elevation for the lake is 1089.0.  The water permit allowing the MLA to pump water from the Missouri only allows us to do so when the lake is at 1090.3 or lower.
  • August 2010:  At an elevation of 1090, a “No wake zone” was declared for the lake due to high rain events.
  • 2011:  Massive Missouri River flooding raised groundwater elevations and the entire lake was under the “no wake zone”.
  • 2012:  Due to massive pump repair expenditures from the 2011 flood and change in funding sources, the MLA changed the target lake elevation to 1088.00 to save on pumping expenses.
  • 2012-2018:  The lake elevation was kept at 1088.  Improvements included a variable speed drive to allow for more consistent pumping operations and lower electric bills, erosion control efforts at storm drain inlets, and the addition of a disperser at the inlet to make the incoming water more environmentally friendly in terms of fish habitat and erosion.  The correlation between river levels and lake levels became apparent and more closely watched.
  • August 2018:  The pump bringing water from Missouri River to McCook Lake was turned off due to maintaining or exceeding the target lake elevation of 1088.00 with only rainfall and groundwater.
  • Winter 2019:  The river levels, which are dictated by the Army Corp of Engineers, stayed high, keeping ground water elevations high and McCook Lake high. 
  • April 29, 2019:  Lake elevation is at 1088.5, 6” above target elevation, with no pumping from the river.
  • May 29, 2019:  Lake elevation is at 1089.4.  At the request of the MLA, South Dakota Game Fish & Parks declare a “NO WAKE” zone for all of McCook Lake.  According to Emmet Keyser, Regional Supervisor for Region 3 of the SD GFP, this is something the Governor can issue on a temporary basis to deal with emergency type events.

  • June 29, 2019:  Volunteers with the McCook Lake Association hook up a back-up pump at the inlet to pump water back to the Missouri River to “de-water” the lake.  The lake elevation was roughly 1090.3.  The target lake height is between 1088.0 and 1089.0, the heights that the lake has been pumped to in recent years. 
  • August 23, 2019:  The  SD GFP lifts the "No wake" restriction but reminds boaters that wakes can and do cause damage and encourage all lake users to maintain adequate distance from shorelines.
  • 2021:  After seasons of plenty of water (or maybe too much?!?!)   The lake reaches its "normal" level around Memorial Day, instead of early May.

  • March 2022:  The lake level is at 1082, the lowest level that many people have seen.  Utility costs are expected to greatly exceed those in past years.
  • August 2022:  McCook Lake finally reaches its target 1088 lake elevation after rains contributed to the lake, despite pumps running at capacity all summer.
  • August 2023:  For the second year in a row, it takes until early August to get the lake to its target elevation of 1088.  Pumping operations are slowed to roughly 11,000 gallons per minute, and one gold membership pays for approximately 7 hours of pumping.
  • September 2023:  The pumping system was turned off September 17 to conserve funds, as the organization ran in a deficit for three years in a row.  In prior years, the lake was maintained at roughly 1088 until October 1.