Traveling around Big Spirit Lake had been a problem for many years. Many people went to Crandall's Beach or to McClellan's Beach but going from one to the other required traveling several five miles into Minnesota and back from west or east. The buying and development of Mini-Wakan State Park advanced the proposition to build a road across the slough west of the new park. It was a combined effort of many private individuals, city, county, state and federal jurisdictions and bids were let in May 23, 1933.
The dream of many for more than a score of years of a drive around Big Spirit Lake on the state line was finally assured with the universal co-operation of everyone. This project came to reality in April 1933. The right-of-way for the purposed road was secured and the necessary finances raised and laid on the laps of the State Fish and Game commissioners and the members of the State Board of Conservation in Des Moines.
The Spirit Lake Protective Association had been proposing this road for many years. George Frink, president of the Spirit Lake Protective Association, "had the north road as one of his hobbies. Mr. Frink had one ambition and often said he hoped he might survive on this earth until he saw this improvement become a reality." (Spirit Lake Beacon — April 13, 1933.) Mr. Frink did see his dream come true with the construction of the North Shore Road.
"The new road will branch off from the present road at the state line just north of Crandall's Lodge and run due east across the slough and connect with the present state line road at the McClelland Beach. In addition to the new road, it will provide the opening up of a least a 25-acre natural spawning ground just north of the present rock dam at the inlet to Spirit Lake. There will also be a bridge on the road that will have fish grates to afford the prevention of fish going upstream never to return. A fish passageway will then be opened in the present rock dam to permit the fish access to the spawning ground. This opening or passageway will be limited to possibly about 20 ft. wide so as to protect the spawning ground from the wash and high south winds."
High water a few years later eliminated this dam and also a walking bridge built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) boys from Crandall's Point to Mini-Wakan Park.
The Spirit Lake Beacon — April 6, 1933 stated: "Appreciation is being voiced openly for the part each one has had in the furthering of this project as it is a looked upon as one of the most worthwhile improvements made about the lakes in recent years."
Due to the low water levels of Big Spirit Lake the barrier that separated Big Spirit Lake and the slough to the north was very narrow and had at one time a dam and later a walking bridge built by the CCC boys. When the water level of the lake rose several years later both were destroyed by high water and waves.
The firm selected and a contract was awarded to the J. G. Everest Western Asphalt Co. of Sioux City. Mr. Everest had the contract for considerable paving throughout Dickinson County. The total was $6800 and they were to move some 36,000 yards of earth at 18 cents per yard. Bids were received from 18 cents to 48 cents for this work. A steam shovel was brought in and some 15 men were hired to complete the job. There was also the construction of a bridge built by Graves Construction Company of Melvin. They also built a cattle guard. They employed six men to do this project.
The newspapers wrote nothing about the trucks used nor what farm the dirt and rocks came from. Jim Avery, a long time Spirit Lake resident, recalled a conversation with a man who worked on the project. He told Jim about the truck he used to dump the load. They had to pull out the floorboards in the bottom of the truck bed to dump the load. Dump trucks in the 1930s didn’t haul many yards of dirt compared with today’s dump trucks.
Spirit Lake Beacon July 20, 1933 — "Work on the road at the northern edge of the park side (Mini-Wakan) is progressing rapidly. The Western Asphalt Paving Corporation of Sioux City has been on the grounds for about two weeks. Work started at the western edge of the area July 5. This week the large crane is progressing rapidly towards the eastern side of the slough, with more than half of the grade done. Work the last few days has been difficult because the crane was working in thick mud. Tuesday the work progressed far enough east to get to dry dirt again. The working plan called for a ditch on either side of the road and the crane is lifting this dirt onto the grade for use in building the roadway. Charles Wolf is operating the crane and is assisted by five workmen. Truck drivers will be added later."
The CCC boys finished the North Shore Road by rip-rapping each side of the road. Some of the material from the old dam at the mouth of the slough between Big Spirit Lake and the slough were used for that operation. The CCC boys also built a walking bridge across the entrance of Big Spirit Lake into the slough. The lake level of the Iowa Great Lakes was very low in 1933 but rose again several years later and wiped out the walking bridge. The CCC boys continued working on Mini-Wakan Park and completed it in 1934. In the summer and fall of 1933, the CCC boys were living in tents on the Clay County Fair Grounds. The Okoboji CCC Camp on the north edge of Milford was not built until the fall of 1933 so the boys had a long ride from Spencer to Mini-Wakan Park.
My one photo of the original North Shore Road is shown here. It was taken several years after the grade was built as it reads "Highwater." The North Shore Road is a great road to travel on today.