DISAPPEARANCE OF THE WESTERN LAKE
OME years ago, when the rainfall began to increase on the eastern edge of the arid district, near the one-hundredth meridian, in the Northwest, it was set down to the fact of the farmers moving westward in Nebraska and Kansas and thereby inducing a larger rainfall by their operations, and causing the boundary of the arid regions to be passed back towards the mountains. This theory was apparently temporarily upheld by statistics till the supply of moisture decreased, whereby hundreds of farms and promising new towns, which had been in full blast, were abandoned In the very regions where conditions seemed to have become permanently more favorable to agriculture.
An Inquiry recently made in Minnesota and the Dakotas concerning the lakes of those states shows that cultivation of tho soil, while exerting directly no perceptible influence upon rainfall, has been one of the causes of a large reduction of lake area and of surface supplies of water. Anyone who has examined with care a trustworthy map of Minnesota will remember that the number of lakes in that slate is very lurge. Ten years ago there were about 7,000 of them; but the numbur would be greatly reduced on a map truthfully representing the topography of the present time. About one-third of the lakes that were shown by the surveys of ten years ago have disappeared, Wheat, flax, or grass was grown this year on the sites of many of these bodies of water and have taken the place of the fish; others have become unsightly and impassable marshes, and the surface levels of the lakes remaining have been lowered by several feet. In the Dakotas a similar change is observed.
The St. Paul “ Pioneer Press” has the following statistics (among others) which bear out this statement:
Cottonwood county, Sliun.—Many lakes dried up; the largest lakes lower by seven or eight feet.
Blue Earth county.—Surface area of thirty lakes reduced one-half; Hush lake, once a mile wide, has disappeared, and the owners of adjoining farms are dividing up the land.
Lyon county.—Lakes that covered one or two square miles ten years ago ‘“now raise crops or are hay meadows.”
Meeker county.—Numerous lakes which were from two to six miles in circumference, and in which fish were plentiful are now mere mud holes. “Within the last ten years our natural water supply has decreased over 50 per cent.”
Mille Lacas country.— Large lakes reduced one-third in area; hay meadows in the place of many small ones.
La Moure county, N. 1).—No lakes remaining; “ only the beds are in evidence.” Five years ago among the lakes of the county there were two or three, each of which had an area of five or six miles.
Lake county, S. D.—Herman and Brant Lakes, 3,000 acres each, practically dried up; Lake Madison, on the shores of which a Chautauqua Association erected a hotel and other buildings, is now ” nothing but a mud hole.”
Dickey county, N. I).—Seven lakes mentioned, all of which have disappeared. “There is not a lake in the county now.”
Coddington county, 8. I).—Ten years ago there were a dozen large lakes, from three to thirty miles in circumference, and many small ones. Of six large ones mentioned, all but one are “entirely dry ” Lake Pelican was eight miles long and two miles wide. “ To day there is not a drop of water in it.
It may be noticed that the artesian wells, on which it is prophesied the farmers must hereafter depend for irrigation purposes, now in use in North Dakota, appear to have drawn water from neighboring lakes which have lost area and volume. It is likewise noteworthy that while there is not a complete agreement as to the causes of this disappearance of the lakes or decrease in their area and volume, nearly all the local authorities seem to be agreed in saying that cultivation of the soil has withheld rainwater from the lakes and streams. “The uncultivated prairies,” one remarks, “presented a smooth, compact surface, from which the rainfall quickly ran off into the slougha and creeks and found its way to the lakes. Now the light, loose cultivated soil absorbs the water as fast as it falls, and it is a rare thing to see water running from the fields to the sloughs when the ground is not frozen. Almost our entire rainfall is absorbed as fast as it falls, and instead of filling our lakes it is filling our granaries.” It is also pointed out that the snowfall has been deficient for some years past. The record kept at St. Paul shows that the rainfall has been considerably below the average since 1882, except in one year.
Some residents, however, hold that the dryness is only temporary and that the lakes will fill again; that the temporary ⅛ to toe alwaya to,. lowed by a series of wet seasons; and that, after a lake has dried down to a small pool, almost invariably the bones of buffaloes may be found at the edge of the pool, which indicates that a similar reduction of lake area took place years ago. But, strangely enough, none advert to the effect of the removal of the forests in certain parts of Minnesota, although this may well have been considered. And yet the situation of the region in which this interesting change has taken place—around the sources of the Mississippi and of the tributaries of the Missouri—makes it a matter of more than local importance.