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The Lake Bronson State Park


Brian Finney


(Parts of the original essay were not legible and thoseareas will be shown with dashes - - until further updates are available)

Have you ever had a day when nothing went right? A daywhen you felt like getting away from it all? Well, I know just the place. Lake Bronson State Park of Lake Bronson, Minnesota. It is not out of theway by any means. It is located in a nice little town along Highway 59,and is far enough away from the town that one can really enjoy oneself. I have been there, I know. It is the only State Park around here for manymiles.

Before I tell you of the formation and dimensions of theLake Bronson Park, I would like to try to tell you what a State Park issupposed to do or represent.

It is supposed to serve as a rest area for tourists andlocal patrons alike. It is also supposed to have the facilities and activitiesaround it that will satisfy the wishes of the more energetic crowd. Itis supposed to blend in with the nature that surrounds it. It should notharm any of the wildlife that may live there. It should be a sample ofthe harmony between nature and man that is beneficial to both parties. All in all, it should be a perfect blend of wilderness, civilization, restingspace, adventure, and beauty. Nothing is perfect, but the Lake Bronson StatePark is about as close to this goal as anyplace will ever get. Now, I'lltell you of the park itself.

First, the originator of the whole idea of creating a damwas J. E. Dishington, who was county engineer of Kittson County for a fewyears. His idea was to create two dams, one at Bronson and the other tobe built in the high banks of the north branch of the Two Rivers at Lancaster. Dishington continued to promote and encourage the development and the buildingof these dams for many years, and finally, after President Roosevelt waselected, the Works Progress Administration became a reality, and the opportunityarose to develop this project.

At Roseau, an SERA Federal government engineer for thisdistrict was stationed. His name was Harold Anderson and it was his dutyto look over the various projects. His inspection of the Lake Bronson damconvinced him that the same (the building of the dam) was capable of beingdone.

During the later months of 1934 and the spring of 1935,the municipalities of Bronson and Hallock became very active in supportof this project. - - - - and mayors spent considerable time and effort togain support for - - from the local people and the state officers. Civicassociations, - - - -, and many private citizens took part in this work. Petitions urging the immediate construction of the dam were circulatedthroughout the country and signed by hundreds of citizens. R. C. Gusa ofHallock did considerable and excellent work circulating these petitions. They were filed with the Governor and other State departments. In February,1935, a joint resolution was adopted by the county board of Kittson County,the village councils of Bronson, Hallock, Kennedy, Halma, the civic associationsof Bronson and Hallock, and many private citizens setting forth the basicfacts showing the necessary construction of the dam and creation of thelake and water reservoir for the benefit of all the communities involved. This resolution was then filed with Governor Floyd B. Olson and the FederalRelief Agencies in Washington, D.C. These various municipalities, mentionedbefore, civic associations, and many private citizens kept the project beforethe public's eye at all times.

The dam was created because Hallock was faced with a watershortage, and could not dig wells because of large deposits of salt. Therewas a drought on at the time so there consequently was a great shortageof water. The only solution was to build a dam at Bronson and thus creatinga reservoir behind it for storage of the badly needed water. The dam couldalso be a help in flood controls which annually cost townships several thousanddollars.

The topography of the land before it (the reservoir) wasformed was a relatively flat area surrounding a wide, heavily wooded rivervalley. At the west edge of the lake, where the dam is now located, thevalley reached a depth of thirty feet. Near the northeast boundary of thelake bed there is a small sand dune area. The valley, which is now thelake bed, contained hardwood trees. Over 90,000 cords of wood were removedbefore the area was flooded. The wood was sawed into lumber to use forcurbing during the construction of the dam.

The Federal engineers were at work making a preliminarysurvey of this project in February and March, 1935, and at other times.

The first men assigned to head the construction of thedam were Col. Fiero, U.S. Army Engineer; Mr. Holmberg, with the State Department;Sgt. Carlson, in charge of the work camp; Mr. Walien, Harold Anderson, ArmyEngineers; and bookkeeper Mr. Stewart; supervisor, Jack Stone; and GeorgeNelson was construction engineer.

A camp was set up which gave about 300 men shelter (allW.P.A. men). By late fall of 1936, Cliff Bouvette was honored by the requestto pour the first bucket of concrete that went into the dam, and later presidedat the formal dedication, which was attended by State and Federal officials.

Great difficulty was experienced in the building of thedam itself. The base was quicksand to a depth of over 100 feet below. For a time, the whole project was almost given up because engineers whereconvinced no suitable foundation could be made solid enough to support thelarge dam. Finally, the man who built the Holland Tunnel under New YorkCity's Hudson River was employed. Holland built skyscrapers in San FranciscoBay on quicksand that withstood earthquakes. He drew plans for the damand his firm underwrote them. He drove steel interlocking plates all aroundthe dam's superstructure which was jetted ---high pressure water ---- 90feet. When this rectangle was completed he drove sand points in ----andpoured water for weeks out of the sand - - area. Finally, the - - to dryvery fast and became like powder, extremely dry and hard. He then - - -set pipes down into the concrete which came up through the superstructure,and discharged the water into the lake. His idea was to keep the quicksandforever dry because the great weight of the dam would force water that mightseep into these pipes and thus discharge it back into the lake. Today,this dam remains on its first bench marks, plumb and very sound. This structurewas given widespread publicity in engineering periodicals.

The lake created is really a series of three lakes withnarrow necks of water interconnecting. The shoreline of the three lakesis approximately 20 miles in length and the average depth of the lake nearestthe dam is thirty feet. The other lakes are shallower and finally taperto only a few feet deep at the far end of the reservoir.

The dam, lake, and surrounding area were dedicated as aState Park in 1937. Since that time, the State Department of Conservationhas acquired ownership of the property and operates and maintains the same. This relieves the responsibility of the county board and the taxpayersof the county under this resolution.

One of the main attractions of the park is the bathingbeach. At present the park has camping facilities for 200 units, picnicarea, bathing beach, scout area, hiking and snowmobile trails. The parkis visited annually by over 250,000 people.

A major improvement to the park was completed in Augustof 1949. A bituminous treatment of the highway leading to the park fromHighway 59 through Lake Bronson and on to the park was completed.

The construction of the Lake Bronson Dam and the StatePark have fulfilled their purpose to the fullest degree. Many benefitsmay be enumerated, a few of which are as follows:

1. A reservoir providing enough water for the villagesof Hallock and Lake Bronson, and the people who live along the river belowthe dam. On many occasions the village of Hallock has called for the releaseof water from the lake to replenish the village water supply.

2. The public park has been created and is being maintained,as promoting the recreational enjoyment of the people of the State of Minnesota.

3. The lake is a material and perpetual aid in the conservationand preservation of the public health, safety, and general welfare of thepeople of the State of Minnesota. (1)

Before I close, I must remind you that you are a part ofall the State Parks in Minnesota since it was mostly your money that wasused to create them. I will now tell you some pointers that are neededto know when one enters a State Park of Minnesota.


1. A $3.00 annual windshield motor vehicle permit sticker- - - of all State Parks for the year - - - $1.00 daily permit - - - fortourists just passing through.

2. State Park camping fees are - - per night. You must- - ranger in charge of the park.

3. Emergency camping is permitted in State Parks not havingregular tourist camp areas but only from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. the next day.

4. Campsites are assigned for not more than two weeks forany one park on a first-come first-served basis.

5. Pets must be kept on a leash at all times, and thisleash must not be longer than six feet. Pets are not permitted in any parkpublic building.

6. Electricity, where available, is 50 cents a day peroutlet.

7. Firewood, if available, is 50 cents a bundle. Feesfor other services such as bath house, excursions, and rental boats, dependon location and facilities of the area (2)

The following is a letter from the Park Manager to theState Park visitors explaining the rights and obligations that one is supposedto uphold.

"This is your park. Through your taxes and representation in State Government, you, the people, have helped establish and maintain this area as a sanctuary, a spot of peace and quiet, and escape from urban strains, a place of relaxation.

We, the park staff, have been hired by you to manage, improve and preserve this facility.

You, as a taxpayer and co-owner of this area, have the right to expect the very best that we, your employees, can give you in equal fairness and courtesy to all.

You have the right to demand prompt, courteous service from your park attendants.

You have the right to expect cleanliness of park grounds, roadsides, restrooms, and buildings.

You have the right to expect that your park employees will protect the wildlife of this park to the best of their ability, to patrol during deer season to discourage game violators, etc.

You have the right to expect us to protect the plant life and vegetation to the best of our ability to prevent denuding of a very lovely area.

You have the right to expect us to enforce the "leash law" for dogs and cats.

You have the right to expect us to enforce the evening curfew. This is mainly for the protection of your young people.

You have the right to expect gradual improvement of this park with a minimum of damage to the natural environment.

You have the right to expect us to boost for the community, to present a favorable image to the tourist and make him want to return for another vacation in your area.

Finally, you have the right to expect us to render any assistance within our capabilities to make your visits to this State Park pleasant ones.

Now that we have outlined your rights, may we also suggest that you have an obligation - an obligation as park visitors to set a standard of conduct and ethics. We merely ask that you respect the laws and regulations designated to keep our parks clean, to protect our wildflowers, trees, and wildlife. By your personal example, you can help us preserve and perpetuate our Minnesota outdoor heritage and thus make our parks more pleasant for all concerned." (3)


(1) Souvenir Program, Minnesota Territorial CentennialPageant, 1949, Directed by Mr. and Mrs. Harold Searls, p. 29

(2) "Facilities Offered by our State Parks",Volunteer Magazine, May-June 1972, p. 72

(3) A Guide to Minnesota State Parks, Minnesota Departmentof Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation.

ilities Offered by our State Parks",Volunteer Magazine, May-June 1972, p. 72

(3) A Guide to Minnesota State Parks, Minnesota Departmentof Natural Resources, Division of Parks and Recreation.