BSA Camp Old Broadaxe


I'm sure there have been a plethora of '72 flood stories posted as we just passed that inauspicious date, but I have a bit of a different point of view on the events of the day. I was a 15-year old Boy Scout camping at Camp Old Broadaxe in the Nemo area with a bunch of other Scouts from the Black Hills Area Council for an Order of the Arrow weekend. When the rain first started we all headed for our tents located at various sites around the grounds and spent the next couple of hours doing the usual grab-ass stuff that Scouts on campouts do. By around 8 pm the deluge was worsening and it was starting to get concerning to the leaders in charge. Finally, runners were sent to all the campsites to round up the boys and head them up to the mess hall. Needless to say, it was a bit of a madhouse with 50+ wet and excited boys stuffed into this structure. About 10 pm we got the news that the bridge across the creek that ran alongside the camp was getting ready to go. I remember venturing out with flashlights and rain ponchos to watch this bridge constructed of large Ponderosa Pine trunks torn away and washed down stream as if it were made of Tinker Toys.

The next day dawned clear and sunny and as a bunch of kids we didn't really think much of the storm. We were told Rapid City was hit pretty hard but didn't really realize the full extent of what had happened. On Sunday when we were scheduled to leave, we had to hike out with our gear as the bridge was out. Again a great adventure until we came to a clearing and saw a SD National Guard UH-1 Huey (what they called slicks in Vietnam) set down. The pilot told us they were surveying the damage in that area and that Rapid was in bad shape. We hiked to where a bus had been found to bring us home and as we got nearer to Rapid we saw the devastation that had been visited on our town the night before Needless to say what we observed had a sobering effect on all of us.

Thankfully, my home in the Canyon Lake area had escaped any structural damage although we did have the smelly issue of the sewer in the basement backing up. The night of the flood my dad nearly drown when his vehicle was washed down thru the West Main gap when the dam burst and sent a wall of water down thru town. Thankfully, a good Samaritan pulled him out of the water and very likely saved his life. One of the people whose remains were never found was a classmate of mine. He along with his mother and father all perished on that terrible night.. It was a long summer of clearing debris, cars , destroyed houses and in a few cases, recovering the bodies of victims. It will always stay with me.



“BSA Camp Old Broadaxe,” Flood of 1972, accessed September 28, 2022,