Twin Lakes Resort: A Booming Recreational Area
Located south of Roswell in Miner County, Twin Lakes Resort was a depression-era project by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the early to mid-1930s.
Construction of the resort began with an earthen dam 380 feet long and 9 feet high being built across the southern outlet of the lakes during the fall of 1932. Construction of the dam was funded by Roswell residents and local farmers as relief labor was not yet available at the time. Several dances were held during the winter months of 1932/33 to raise funds for several wells to be drilled during the spring of 1933 to provide water for the project.
A well drilling rig, owned by Alfred and James Hanson of Roswell, was accrued and the brothers donated their time and machine in drilling the wells at Twin Lakes. During March of 1933, a four inch well was struck at a depth of 180 feet and flowed at a rate of 360 gallons per minute. Within 24 hours, the first well had covered over 25 acres of the lakebed with water.
By 1933, excavation of a 60,000 square foot swimming pool located on the east bank of the south lake began.
Around the same time, the WPA began construction on a 444-foot-long rock bridge connecting an island at the center of the lake to the mainland. The island covered an area of roughly eleven acres and had steep banks projecting nearly 20 feet above the water level. The bridge project was completed sometime during late 1935 or early 1936. Approximately 2,300 loads of rock and 370 loads of gravel were used in the construction of the bridge. Parking and picnic areas were then established on the north end of the island.
The swimming pool was completed in 1935. With a size of roughly 60,000 square feet, the pool became one of the largest outdoor swimming pools in the state. Fed by an artesian well located between the pool and the lake, the main part of the pool was 4 feet, 8 inches deep. At the north end of the pool over 10 feet of water provided excellent diving from two platforms, at heights of 8 and 16 feet above the water's surface.
Swimming and water-related activities at Twin Lakes Resort provided Miner County and surrounding area residents an opportunity to temporarily escape the harsh drought and dust bowl years of the 1930s. On almost any Sunday during the summer of 1935, anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 people enjoyed the clear, fresh water of the pool. An authorized Red Cross lifeguard was on duty from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., 7 days a week, and free swimming lessons were offered every Monday and Tuesday.
On the northern banks of the pool stood a well-built bandstand where local bands from Roswell, Canova, and Fedora would provide entertainment every Sunday evening at 8 p.m., And every other Sunday at 2 p.m. The bottom half of the bandstand served as a kitchen where food was prepared and sold.
A baseball field, dance hall, bathhouse, and several summer cottages were also built on the banks of the pool and the lakes. Several private structures were constructed to house concession stands and other vendors.
By 1935, over 3,000 trees had been planted around the lakes and on the island. In addition, between 40,000 and 45,000 fish, consisting of Black and White Crappies, Yellow Perch, and Bullheads were stocked in the lakes under the direction of the South Dakota GFP department.
It was estimated that $15,000 of relief labor and over 30,000 man-hours were invested into the construction of the lakes and swimming pool, not to mention the hundreds of hours of donated labor and large cash donations for the drilling of two wells.
The remainder of development at Twin Lakes was completed in 1936 and the resort became an extremely popular attraction to people not only from Miner County but from surrounding counties as well.
Between hunting and fishing opportunities, a massive pool with a man-made beach, numerous activities and summer cottages, Twin Lakes became known as one of the best lake resorts in South Dakota, according to a 1935 article published in the Mitchell Daily Republic.
Unfortunately, prosperity did not last long. During the late 1930s and early 1940s, visitor numbers declined, along with several vendors closing. The arrival of World War II spelled the end for Twin Lakes. The resort closed in the mid-1940s and was sold to the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks in 1948. Following the transfer of ownership, all remaining structures were demolished, and the area became a State Game Production Area.
An effort to have Twin Lakes re-established as a recreational area was made by the Howard Community Club in October of 1949. The monthly meeting of the Community Club had near record turnout, with 40 members in attendance. The club drew up and immediately adopted a resolution to be mailed to the State GFP and South Dakota Governor George Mickelson, requesting their attention to the work needed at Twin Lakes. The resolution also requested that the area be designated a recreational area and be beautified with the planting of trees, road work, etc.
The resolution was also presented at the Lake Herman chapter of Izaak Walton in Madison, which backed the program and immediately passed a companion resolution endorsing the Howard Community Club resolution “100%”. The companion resolution was also sent to the South Dakota GFP and the Governor.
Unfortunately, neither effort was successful. Today, Twin Lakes remains under the ownership of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks and is a State Game Production Area used for hunting purposes.
-- Article by George Justice Forster, published in the Miner County Pioneer.