Baker Lake officially opens after EF-3 tornado

By Aaron Smith

The grand opening of Baker Lake took place June 21 at the gazebo. After three years of draining, cleaning, filling, and other hard work, a ceremonial snip of a ribbon signaled the official opening of the lake.

At the grand opening, several noteworthy individuals spoke, including the County Commissioners, a representative from Senator Tester’s office, a representative from Senator Daines’ office, a FEMA representative, and a USACE representative. The speakers, among other things, thanked those involved in the huge project, congratulated the community, touched on the EF-3 tornado that occurred three years ago, and applauded the outcome of the project.

The project itself changed Baker Lake after it was finished. While it’s still the lake we all know and love, it’s much deeper than it once was.  31,200 truckloads of debris which consisted of 543,000 cu. yds. of soil and 48 tons of large debris were removed. Over 500,000 miles were accumulated by the haul trucks and the stockpile was taller than a 20 story building on a football field. Before the project, only 7 acres of the 93.3-acre lake was deeper than 10 feet. Now, 53 acres of the lake is of this depth. The amount of lake acreage that is of at least 15 feet in depth increased from 0 to 18 acres. This increase in depth led to Baker Lake nearly doubling in volume.

As part of Fallon County’s wetland restoration project, 1,378 linear feet of shoreline treatment was constructed with 6,900 live willow cuttings that were collected from the lower Yellowstone River watershed. There were a total of 620 trees and shrubs planted along the shoreline and wetland fringe area. These trees and shrubs include plains cottonwood, sandbar willow and pacific willow. Approximately 10.5 acres within the Baker Lake borders were planted with a native seed mix to restore the natural environment of the wetlands which are a key component in maintaining water quality, flood and silt control and wildlife and fishery habitats.

Along with these physical changes, there are some other differences with the lake as well. Two new fishing docks have been installed; one is in Iron Horse Park, and the other is located near the boat dock. These docks give individuals the opportunity to fish in Baker Lake from the shore. Yellow perch, black crappie, walleye and trout have been stocked in Baker Lake by Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff.  A new shelter at Iron Horse Park will be available to reserve for events coming in July. This shelter will feature glass overhead doors which can be closed to allow use in all kinds of weather.

There are also “no wake zone” buoys placed in certain areas throughout the entirety of the lake. Two beach/swim areas are enclosed by these buoys, and a fishing area is separated from the rest of the lake with these buoys as well. These buoys are put in place to ensure that people aren’t disturbing the water too much in areas where people may be swimming or fishing.

With summer officially upon us, and the 4th of July just around the corner, Baker Lake couldn’t have opened at a better time. With new docks, deeper waters, and no wake zones for swimming and fishing, there is a place for everyone to enjoy the newly reopened Baker Lake.