LAKE SYLVAN
©Darold Snortum 2007
 
Canby’s little lake was built about 1934.  The area, prior to the lake construction, was a low swampy area with a
creek running through it. It was a government W.P.A. project. The dam and bridge were built at the same time, the dam of course was necessary to raise the level of the water.
 
Before the lake project, highway 75 turned east immediately by Sorby's lumberyard then across the creek over a narrow bridge.
 
When first built, the South side of the lake was shallow and had a sand bottom. There was a nice building for dressing rooms on the South side. The North side was about 10 to 12 ft. deep with steep sloping sides. There was a permanent diving platform built out over the water.
 
Anchored about 30 to 40 ft. out in the lake was a large floating platform with another diving board.
 
The original lake was 2 to 3 times bigger then it is now (after being dug out in 1988).
 
Shortly after the lake was built a young man drowned, trying to swim across the lake. I can remember sitting on the North bank watching boats drag for the body.
 
Later there was a lifeguard on duty most of the time. Sam McGorman and Maurice Hunt were two that I can remember. There were Red Cross swimming lesson then as now.
 
It seems the lake begin to gradually fill in every time high water would occur. We could feel a layer of mud
beginning to form on the bottom.  I would guess that most swimming had stopped by the late 1940s. However, when we were kids it was a wonderful place to swim.
 
Union Public Service Company, later Otter Tail, had a pump house on the North side that pumped water to the cooling towers at the light plant.
 
Sometime in the 50s, Otter Tail brought in a floating dredge to increase depth again so they could still use it for cooling purposes.  The silt was pumped to the west side and decreased the area of the lake.
 
There is a story that Herman Ohlsen, a plumber, installed city water for a residence across the tracks. When the customer complained that the water was dirty it was found they had been hooked up to Otter Tails lake water line.
 
In the years that followed the lake filled in more and more until it was basically a slew filled with reeds. In 1988 Kockelman Construction offered to dig out the area to a depth of 4 ft. for a price of $14,000. This was done and it is felt that because of 3 dams built west of town, the sediment problem should be under control. I feel Kockelman’s did this for civic pride because they certainly lost money on the project.