Agriculture and Wide Open Spaces
Newell, population 608, is located in the fertile Belle Fourche River Valley 25 miles east of Belle Fourche. More than a century after it was founded, agriculture remains a sustaining force for Newell. The area's farmers and rancher raise corn, alfalfa, crops, sheep and cattle.
The land surrounding Newell is part of the 57,000-acre Belle Fourche Irrigation District. Construction on the canals, inlets and reservoirs of the irrigation system began in 1905, and by 1908 water was flowing onto the once-arid lands of Butte County. It was one of the first federal irrigation projects of its kind.
In fact, the town of Newell is named for Frederick Newell, the first director of the U.S. Reclamation Service, now known as the Bureau of Reclamation, and an early supporter of the Belle Fourche project.
More than a century after the irrigation project was completed, Newell residents continue to enjoy one of its unintended benefits — the Belle Fourche Reservoir. Also known as Orman Dam, the 8,000-acre lake has approximately 58 miles of shoreline.
The reservoir and its Rocky Point State Recreation Area attract summer campers, boaters and outdoors lovers from throughout western South Dakota. Anglers come for the walleye, yellow perch, channel catfish, smallmouth bass, white bass and tiger muskie that ply the reservoir’s depths.
Although agriculture is the key industry, one local manufacturing business in Newell is Aker Woods Company, a maker of specialty products from Black Hills timber. The company's sawmill makes products such as custom mantelpieces, milled timber, log siding, log railings and hand-peeled posts.