Floodwaters Inundate Many Campgrounds
Floodwaters have disrupted the operations at hundreds of campgrounds around the U.S. this week, notably in Texas, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ohio.
The evacuation order was given Wednesday morning to about 50 campers at Deerwood Park near Evansdale, Iowa, according to the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. The swollen Cedar River already swallowed up Black Hawk Park campground upstream, putting its availability for the busy Labor Day weekend in doubt. George Wyth State Park also was closed. “It’s hard to say now if we’ll be available for Labor Day weekend,” said Joe Benhoff, Deerwood maintenance supervisor. Black Hawk Park, with 175 sites, closed at noon Tuesday but not before workers cabled together some 300 picnic benches, moved some cabins to the parking lot and shut off electricity, said Mike Hendrickson of Black Hawk County Conservation. The conservation official is hopeful to get cleanup crews into the campground early next week. “We’ll be scrambling to save Labor Day,” Hendrickson said.
In southeast Minnesota, two major river systems — the Whitewater and Root — turned into torrents of destruction during Sunday’s flooding, severely damaging popular camping, bicycling and fishing areas and facilities, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials were still surveying the damage this week, but one of the state park system’s jewels —Whitewater State Park near Elba — was heavily damaged and won’t reopen for months, they said. Damage will exceed $1 million. The Middle Branch of the Whitewater River, which runs through the park, roared out of its banks early Sunday, wiping out three bridges and damaging campgrounds, restrooms, a group dining hall and the septic and water systems. About 500 campers were evacuated Saturday night, but a dozen campers were stranded at a primitive campsite overnight. They were evacuated the next morning. The 2,700-acre park ranks No. 2 in overnight camping visitors among Minnesota’s 72 state parks and recreation areas, drawing about 300,000 people annually. Hundreds of campers with reservations are getting refunds. Elsewhere, swollen rivers carved out new channels, ripped up trails and killed countless wild and hatchery trout. Most hiking, bicycling and off-road trails are closed in southeast Minnesota until further notice.
Flooding caused by as much as 11 inches of rain, which fell in portions of Vernon County in Wisconsin between Saturday and Sunday morning, led to damage ranging in the “millions” of dollars, according to the Vernon County Broadcaster. At Sidie Hollow Park in central Vernon County, more than 20 recreational vehicles at the park’s boat landing campground were flooded nearly to their roofs. “It hit so quick, nobody expected it to hit like this, be so heavy and come so fast,” said Tim Jacobson, Vernon County’s caretaker of parks. “We know we have millions of dollars in damage.” At the park’s camp office campground recreational vehicles were literally washed down Sidie Hollow Creek. “I’ve worked for the county for six years and have never seen anything like this,” Jacobson said. “I’ve seen flooding, but the water recedes faster. I’ve never even heard of flooding here like this.”
In Southeast Texas, the San Antonio River crested Thursday afternoon at nearly 14 feet above flood stage and inundated Goliad Park, according to the Victoria Advocate. Walter Johnson, the park’s lead ranger, said all the campsites are flooded and the playground area is under anywhere from 4 to 8 feet of water. “Everything else is all right, but our campgrounds are taking a bath,” he said. The campgrounds will remain closed until Wednesday. The water causing the influx is from rains from Tropical Depression Erin that inundated the San Antonio area.
Flooding in several northern Ohio counties also closed campgrounds and was being compared to the flood of July 2006.
Among the recent reports are the following: