Cook Lake will open for day use
May 28, 2020
Despite delays to the project to replace the spillway, which will require the campground to stay closed this year, Cook Lake should be open for day use by the middle of June, says District Ranger Mike Gosse. The Forest Service has been able to complete enough of the work to allow the public to enjoy this popular recreation spot over the summer.
“The replacement of the Cook Lake spillway began on July 8, 2019 with an intended completion date of November 20,” says Gosse.
“However, due to a very wet summer with frequent showers and an early snowfall in October, the project was not entirely completed. The plan was for the Bureau of Reclamation to come back in 2020 to complete their portion of the project.”
The project was initiated to reconstruct the dam and spillway at the lake. Around 60 years old, the previous structure was showing wear and tear and allowing leakage.
Around $1.2 million was allocated to the project, which involved replacing the old earthen dam with four six-foot pipes with a concrete spillway. The new structure will be able handle a much larger volume of water in the event of heavy rain or snow melt.
The Bureau of Reclamation is now expected to be present on site on July 7 to work on the toe drain, emergency spillway ground work, final placement of jersey barriers, installation of a log boom in front of the spillway and ground work around and on top of the new spillway, says Gosse. Cement work is complete and it’s estimated that the remaining items on the list will take around a month and a half.
“The Forest Service then needs three to four weeks to also complete their portion of work yet needed such as installing permanent safety fencing on the spillway walls and chute and spreading some gravel down,” Gosse says.
This timeframe means that the campground will not be open and no camping will be allowed around the lake. The Bearlodge Ranger District is working to open up day use only by the middle of June.
“To help ensure visitor safety, our staff will be installing a temporary buoy line in front of the spillway and installing temporary construction fencing along the walls and chute. Until construction is complete no public access in front of the spillway or to the spillway will be allowed,” Gosse says.
“This area is still an active construction site and, for safety purposes, the public will need to stay out of the fenced off area so that the project construction can continue. There will be plenty of shoreline access for the public to enjoy a day of fishing or picnicking at the lake even with the construction zone. Non-motorized boaters are urged to use extreme caution in front of the new spillway and not cross the buoy line.”
Wyoming Game & Fish will be restocking the lake with 8000 catchable-sized rainbow trout from the Tillet and Speas Fish Hatcheries and 1500 tiger trout from the Tensleep Hatchery next week, he says. These will replace the fish lost when the lake was completely drained last fall.
“Opening the Cook Lake area up to public access by mid-June will allow the newly planted fish some time to acclimate to their new surroundings,” Gosse says.
The daily construction schedule may require Cook Lake to be closed for a day or two in July, says Gosse, but efforts are being made to mitigate any long term closures as much as possible.
“We look forward to completing this important spillway safety project on Cook Lake this year, and we look forward to working with the public on providing day use access to this fantastic resource on the Black Hills National Forest,” he says.