History of Milford Lake
Milford Lake was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1954 as a "multi-purpose" project. The purposes include flood control, water supply, water quality, navigation, and recreation/wildlife. Construction of the dam began July 13, 1962 at river mile 8.3 on the Republican River. The dam consists of a rolled earth fill embankment (15 million cubic yards) with an "uncontrolled" spillway on the right bank. The term "uncontrolled" refers to the lack of spillway gates such as those at Tuttle Creek Lake in Manhattan, KS. The outlet works are comprised of an intake tower, a gated single 21-foot horseshoe conduit, and a stilling basin (40 thousand cubic yards of concrete).
Many contractors were involved with the project during the construction phase. Contractors built new roads and altered existing roadways; relocated railroad facilities; relocated city owned facilities in Wakefield and Milford; relocated electrical, telephone, and gas lines; relocated cemeteries; built recreation areas; and cleared structures from within the reservoir flood pool. The towns of Alida and Broughton ceased to exist, with houses either moved to other locations or razed, burned, and buried. The town of Alida had a major clearing contract for the removal of the Alida Cooperative grain elevator. Originally a local Chiropractor looked into gaining permission to develop the grain elevator into a hotel with restaurant. Corps of Engineers studies showed that the base of the elevator would not support the structure after the lake inundated it. According to local newspaper articles, it took six separate blasts over a two-day period to bring the elevator down.
Broughton had two railroads that came through town, the Rock Island from the east and the Union Pacific from the southeast. The town sported a stockyard, grain elevator, Post Office, school, church, telephone exchange, grocery store, private homes, and a blacksmith’s shop under a large cottonwood tree. According to a local newspaper article, many men who lived in the area worked for the railroads. A large Mexican population resided in town and it was reported that many grew marijuana in their gardens to mix in with their cigarettes. This was before marijuana became illegal.
Finally the situation received national recognition when Paul Harvey (a well known radio personality) stated, "Come to Clay County, Kansas, marijuana capital of the world." Even though the town is gone, an annual Broughton picnic is held for those who still remember. Portions of the towns of Wakefield and Milford were relocated to higher ground. Farms were dismantled and trees were removed from areas soon to be covered by the lake waters.
Impoundment of the lake began January 16, 1967 and six months later on July 13, the multipurpose pool elevation of 1144.4 m.s.l. (mean sea level) was reached. Milford Lake’s dedication ceremony was held in May of 1968. Lyndon Johnson, then President of the United States, was scheduled to appear but did not come.
A final historical story for the area is the one about the "big, big, boat". In 1967 a local man had a dream of building a paddleboat to put out on Milford Lake. He began construction of the boat in the basement of his house. As the boat grew, his basement got smaller. Eventually he had to dismantle part of his house and garage to remove the boat from his basement. The boat was completed in a vacant lot next door with the installation of the paddles. As the boat was transported to nearby Milford Lake, overhead power lines had to be raised. The boat was placed in storage at Thunderbird Marina. Later on, the "big, big, boat" burned without ever being put on the water.
Over the course of the last 34 or so years the Milford Lake Project has provided over $921 million in flood prevention; $250 million of that protection occurred during the 1993 fiscal year (Oct. 1, 1992 – Sept. 30, 1993). The initial cost of construction of the dam and reservoir was approximately $49,700,00.