Reflecting on Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake has been around since the very inauguration of the town of Hettinger. It not only provides resources, but also a place of recreation.

Sidra Sadowsky
For The Record

Currently, even thinking about using Mirror Lake for anything, whether it be for resources or recreation, makes the residents of Hettinger cringe. The lake used to be vital for the success of the town. Mirror Lake is what first led Hettinger to flourish and thrive, but now, it seems to be useless.

Mirror Lake was first constructed in 1909 to support the Milwaukee Railroad. The lake was built to hold water for the use of power in their steam driven trains. It was what helped give Hettinger its start. Later, the lake began to attract people with its recreational opportunities. Over time, the lake was not properly maintained and had to undergo maintenance. A great amount of sediment landed in Mirror Lake as a result of the “Dirty Thirties”. Along with the dust storms from the 1930s, sediment waste from the construction of Highway 8 found its way into the lake. This led to many problems within the lake, but the town of Hettinger decided to take action into their own hands in the mid-1980s.

In 1979, Hettinger’s residents proposed the possibility of the restoration to the damaged Mirror Lake. The community worked together to start what is known as the, “Mirror Lake Restoration Project”. The project finally got its start in November of 1983. Usually construction doesn’t begin in the colder months of North Dakota, but it was necessary for Mirror Lake. The frost of November helped control the moisture content in the soil in the lake bed. The construction team planned to drain the reservoir and reconstruct it. The team rebuilt Mirror Lake with a beautiful recreation center in mind. They added a beach, boat ramp, and a walking course. At the end of construction, the team had removed an astonishing 350,000 pounds of sediment from the lake. After the restoration project, Mirror Lake has not been maintained. Today, Mirror Lake is no longer in as good of shape as it was after the project was completed in 1984.

Mirror Lake is suffering from many issues. One of those problems is composed of nutrient ratio problems. The science teacher at Hettinger Public School, Ms. Block, has been researching the composition of the lake in an ongoing scientific study. She has viewed the lake water under a microscope and has done chemical tests on the water. In the end, Mirror Lake has many areas that need improvement.

The last time Mirror Lake underwent maintenance was about 30 years ago. With the many concerns of Mirror Lake’s health, restoration of the lake may seem like a viable option. Restoring Mirror Lake today comes with its challenges however. Not only does restoring a reservoir take a lot of money, but environmental issues may surface as well. Water shed, erosion, and nutrient ratios all must be taken care of to ensure the health of the lake would be optimal. We can rebuild Mirror Lake, but the issues will repeat themselves if there isn’t a solid plan of prevention. There may be other options to restore Mirror Lake without draining and dredging it. If the lake is taken better care of, more people may use it more often. Ice skating, fishing, walking, and other recreation may attract more persons to the lake. Mirror Lake has been a part of Hettinger’s history, reflecting our town in its waters for over 100 years. Mirror Lake was Hettinger’s past and can be its future, if it is cared for.