Travel via water once possible in Kandiyohi County

Who was the author of that famous line, “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink”? That’s fast becoming a dreaded reality in much of the world and in parts of the United States. We are fortunate in that so far we haven’t had to worry too much about water since the great drought of nearly a hundred years ago. Even so, a few years ago some local wells dried up during a dry spell.

This seems a little strange in a country that has one of the highest water-to-land ratios, with the exception of the counties on the northern border of Minnesota.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

At one time much of what is now Willmar was under water, too, and the old-timers around here used to delight in telling how they hunted ducks where the Lakeland Hotel building now stands. They’d tell about trapping muskrats where the Garfield building stands.

T. B. Walker, who founded the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, nearly drowned as a child on what is now East Becker Avenue.

Big Kandiyohi Lake was down to the lowest point anyone could remember, in the early 1970s, but has since made a comeback.

Much of our water really doesn’t do us much good any more. It’s been ditched into the Crow and Mississippi Rivers, which take it downstream to the Gulf of Mexico.

People used to go from Lake Lillian to Willmar by boat in the spring, and the same is true about people going by boat from Diamond Lake to Atwater. There have been many other small water routes in the county, particularly in the spring when the water levels were high.

Even now there are certain times when several stretches on the Crow River can be used with canoes.

The late O.A. Nelson, New London’s naturalist in residence, kept water and rainfall records for at least a half-century. Quite a while ago he had come to the conclusion that we had ditched so much and covered so much land with buildings and asphalt that, at that time, it took 8 inches over normal rainfall to keep our lakes at their normal levels.

What has been done to preserve our water levels? Little or nothing. I wonder what Nels would say if he could see us now.

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