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There are two things you must know to understand how Beaver Lake went dry: 

1. Star Creamery was a place on St. Olaf Lake where the local dairy farmers sold their milk (The building is still there on the NE shore). 

2. Lost River is the name of the underground river that flows from St. Olaf Lake to Beaver Lake. (The river is shown on most of the early area Waseca-Steele County maps.)

One winter the boiler in the Star Creamery started losing its ability to maintain the necessary pressure to process the farmers’ milk. The Star Creamery board of directors got on the problem right away, and managed to get a new boiler installed without wasting any milk.

But, the old boiler became a problem, as the board couldn’t find anyone to take it away. It was the middle of winter, and St. Olaf Lake was frozen solid. 

Board member Lars Larson got a light bulb idea. 

They hauled the old boiler out on the ice to let it sink when the ice thawed. It worked, and as the boiler sank, it turned over, with the long train-engine-like smokestack going down first.

Spring came, and as usual St. Olaf’s water level started to rise. It continued to rise, getting to where water was flowing out the south side of St. Olaf Lake and into the LeSueur River. Why all the water compared to previous springs? The locals were dumbfounded.

Meanwhile, the water level in Beaver Lake kept dropping. It got to the point where Beaver Lake was bone dry. What happened to the water? The locals were dumbfounded. 

Ole, Lars, Swen and Nels, the four smartest Norwegians in the area, took it upon themselves to solve the puzzle of why St. Olaf Lake had so much water and Beaver Lake had none.

First, they checked the dried-up bottom of Beaver Lake. They discovered a mound of sand and gravel like a river would deposit. They wondered where this river was coming from, and why it quit flowing.

They thought just maybe the source was St. Olaf Lake, and was no longer flowing into Beaver Lake, thus causing St. Olaf’s water level to be so high. But what plugged the underground river? 

Lars got a light bulb idea. 

It was the boiler that was sunk when the ice went out on St. Olaf Lake!

The four Norwegians each got on a horse (in case you didn’t know, a horse is a very good swimmer) holding a small chain attached to a log chain behind the horses, and started to drag the bottom where the boiler had been sunk.

Luck was with them as they snagged the boiler. The horses pulled and there was an instant whirlpool. In a few days, Beaver Lake’s water level was back to normal. 

Now you know how Beaver Lake went dry. I know this story to be true, as the event is told by one of the panelists at the History of Beaver Lake meeting held at the Historical Society in Owatonna on Thursday, June 21, 2012, at 7 p.m.

— — —

Bob is a retired AAL (Aid Association for Lutherans) agent. His wife, Genie, is a retired RN, currently working on her doctor’s degree in volunteering. They have two children, Deb in North Carolina, and Dan in Vermont. This is the Hanson’s 37th summer at Beaver Lake. They leave the lake in mid-October to go south — to Albert Lea — and return in April. Bob says if you enjoy his article, let him know. If you don’t enjoy it, keep on reading, it can get worse. Words of Wisdom: There is always room for God. 

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