Feds Close National Forest Campsites for Flood Threat Study
Three floods in two years at Arkansas's Ouachita National Forest campgrounds are prompting the U.S. Forest Service to close more than a 100 campsites to test for flooding probability, KTHV-TV, Little Rock, Ark., reported.
It is a quiet day at Charlton Campground in Garland County. But after April 25, 2011, it became more quiet than ever.
"People want to be close to water. That's why campsites are built next to streams and lakes in Arkansas. It certainly took us by surprise. Creeks like this that look very tame today, very quiet and peaceful but they can come up and become a raging torrent in a matter of an hour or less," says Bill Pell, staff officer for park and recreation with the Ouachita National Forest.
He says in minutes, Walnut Creek rose more than 6 feet above it's banks, sending its four Loop B campers running for higher ground.
"Just tremendous force from the water moving through here able to knock down whole trees and pile them up like jackstraws," says Pell.
That April flood along with the deadly Albert Pike flood of 2010 has prompted scientists to take a closer look at campsites prone to flash flooding.
"Can we as a society or as a people afford to have a tragic event take place because we couldn't predict that flood well enough in advance?" says Pell.
More than 120 sites will be closed to overnight campers for the summer with the possibility of never opening again.
Scientists will gather information about precipitation patterns, topography and stream channel width. They'll use the information to determine in what areas are 10-, 20-, 50-, even 100-year floods the most probable.
"The jury will be out, I would say until sometime this fall as to what ends up happening to camping in these areas," says Pell
Pell says the study will start this month and take awhile to determine the results. He says the forest service will be working with the public, discussing ideas on how to manage the areas that do stay open in the future.