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Missouri River Flooding Becomes Tourist Draw

August 2, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Aerial view of Gavins Point Dam in normal times.

Flooding along the Missouri River has devastated local homes and businesses this summer. But its impact on tourism isn’t so black and white, KELO-TV, Sioux Falls, S.D., reported.

The high water may be keeping people away from traditional vacation spots and attractions, but the water’s also causing more intrigue.

The water at Larson’s Landing in Yankton, S.D., has actually gone down. But not enough to keep it running.

“Unfortunately, at the beginning of summer, we did have to close two of our campgrounds,” Yankton Convention & Visitors Bureau director Lisa Scheve said.

Scheve says the start of summer was difficult for the city, simply convincing people the area was safe.

“Towards the beginning of June, we did have some concerns,” Scheve said. “There were some cancellations at some of our accommodations because people were concerned they weren’t going to be able to make it here.”

But as the waters continued rushing at a historic pace, the more people wanted to see.

“It’s worked both ways, positively and negatively,” Scheve said. “I think we’ve seen an increase in exposure with more people coming to the area that possibly haven’t been here before. People are making day trips to come and see Gavins Point Dam west of Yankton and the releases it’s had here.”

Gavins Point Dam has become the de facto tourist attraction in Yankton, with people from all across the country amazed by its power.

“I think it’s impressive,” Grand Rapids, Mich., resident Marv Van Heuvelen said. “I was through Yankton once before and it was just a gently flowing river.”

“People are coming in, using gas stations and restaurants, checking out our visitors centers to try to learn more information not only on Gavins Point Dam, but the rest of the area,” Scheve said.

Even though the releases at Gavins Point Dam have gone down, tourism officials expect it to be an attraction for the rest of the summer.

“Regardless of releases, there’s always a different wave of people who come through throughout the summer,” Scheve said. “There are definitely lots of families because kids are out of school.”

And while Gavins Point has proven to be a major draw, that’s not the case downstream in South Sioux City, Neb.

“I probably receive about 10 to 15 phone calls a day asking if the bridges are open,” South Sioux City Convention & Visitors Bureau director Brent Clark said.

Clark says he’s had to fend off major rumors throughout the summer. The bridges are still open, and while there’s an intrigue in what the situation looks like, that’s not helping the city’s bottom line.

“We have seen a decrease in lodging and tax dollars,” Clark said. “Usually, in these types of months, it’s our highest revenue source in the summertime.”

Clark says a lot of campgrounds and baseball fields are flooded, but he encourages people to go to areas that are open like Crystal Cove Park. And as the summer winds down, tourism officials along the Missouri River have accepted how the flooding is just another part of their respective areas.

“You really just move forward and make lemonade out of the lemons you’re dealt,” Clark said.

“You take each punch as it comes,” Scheve said. “You roll with the punches as the days change and situations change and try to make sure that we continue to keep Yankton’s name out there in a positive manner.”

Scheve says the intrigue at Gavins Point has also impacted visitors centers around the area. She says all the centers around the area have set new records already this summer.

Click here to view release of water from the Gavins Point Dam. Video is courtesy of the Argus Leader.

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