Recent flooding has caused devastation across the state, and within Bismarck itself. It has left many in southern Bismarck worrying about flood potential of the Missouri River. 2009 marked the first major flooding of the Missouri River in 57 years.
Flooding was a common occurrence in Bismarck prior to the closure of Garrison Dam, which occurred in April 1953. It was not uncommon for springtime floods to cover much of the land south of present-day Main Avenue.
One of the worst of such floods occurred in April 1952, when the Missouri River crested at 27.9 feet. On April 6, the river rose 5 feet in just 2 hours, increasing from 20.2 feet at 11:30am to 25 feet at 1:30pm. Nearly everything south of U.S. Hwy 10 (Memorial Hwy/Main Ave) was under water. 200 houses were destroyed and the Wachter Family reported the loss of 300 cattle.
The completion of Garrison Dam allowed, for the first time, major development south of Main Avenue. Prior to this, the Wachter Family and Yegen Family owned most of the land.
Like the flooding seen this year (2009), the 1952 Flood was also primarily caused by ice jams. According to the National Weather Service, the April 1952 river level was the 4th highest recorded. The highest was 31.6 feet on March 31, 1883. Flood stage is 16 feet.