Midwest Campgrounds Face Water Woes
Midwestern floods have claimed several campgrounds this past week.
The most severe flooding may have struck Sugar Creek Campground, a 65-site park near Crawfordsville, Ind.
Floodwaters from Sugar Creek crested 7 feet above flood stage on April 19, inundating the park, the Crawfordsville Journal Review reported
“The most important thing is that we got the people out,” said Ken Yager, co-owner with his wife, Julie. “When you have a flood like the one we had, all we care about is the safety of the people. The material things can be replaced.”
The Yagers constantly checked water levels on Sugar Creek on Thursday night (April 18), but by Friday morning they knew there was trouble and immediately took action.
“We started waking people at 3:30 a.m.,” Julie said. “We needed to make sure we got everyone to safety. We had one lady on oxygen and we brought her to our house along with six others.”
Once the Yagers had gotten everyone to safety they started working to save items from the campground and even put themselves into a dangerous situation.
“My son’s girlfriend and I were in waist high water trying to save our 30 canoes,” Yager said. “The current was so strong we nearly got pulled into it. It was scary.”
The water started to recede Saturday which allowed the Yagers their first look at the destruction.
“It is devastating,” she said. “We have spent nine and a half years working to improve our campground. We have spent a lot of time and money and now we are going to have to start all over again.”
Campground employee Christa Dinius, who lives on the property, said seeing the destruction was saddening.
“I cried when I could finally see the campground,” Dinius said. “We have worked hard the past nine years with a lot of effort to make something beautiful here.”
On Sunday a group of Crawfordsville High School students arrived at the campground to start cleaning up the mess left behind. They were busy finding the many picnic tables that had been washed away. Some were deposited in the nearby trees. Much of the park’s items were not recovered, including two campers and a 500-gallon propane tank.
Crawfordsville High School junior Nolan Morse, whose family has a trailer at the campground, called several of his friends after seeing the destruction. Seven of his friends responded and showed up Sunday afternoon with work gloves and boots.
“When I saw how bad it was, I wanted to do something to help,” he said.
Several people live full-time at the campground. Most of those people were helping at the campground while others from out of town were seeing the destruction for the first time.
Jamey Boyd of Indianapolis had just moved his camper to the campground two weeks ago and had only stayed there one night two weeks ago. The Boyds understood how bad the destruction was because of what they saw posted on Facebook.
“Someone posted on Facebook a camper floating away on the creek,” Boyd said. “That was our camper. It was devastating to see our camper and knowing all you had at the campground is now gone. We cried at the sight of our camper in the water.”
Yager has been disturbed by some of the curiosity seekers since the flood.
“I just don’t think people realize how devastating this is to a lot of people,” Yager said. “This place is not just our business, but it is also the home of a lot of people. We have had a lot of gawkers who have been very inconsiderate. One man brought his two small kids all the way from Illinois to see how bad it is. That just has not set well with me.”
Even with the setback of the flood, the Yagers are ready to start all over again.
“Ken says we are shooting to be back fully operational by Memorial Day,” she said while looking over the volunteers working at the campground. “We might as well be optimistic.”
In Illinois, parts of several state parks remained closed Monday because of last week’s heavy rains and flooding, The Times, Ottawa, reported.
An Illinois Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman said Monday the only trails open at Starved Rock State Park are the trail to Starved Rock from the lodge and the trail to St. Louis Canyon. A stretch of Route 71 east of the park’s south entrance was closed.
The Visitors Center was flooded and closed, but the Lodge and Conference Center, as well as the campground, were open.
At Matthiessen State Park, the lower dells trails, horse trails and mountain bike trails were closed.
Buffalo Rock State Park is closed because there is no road access, as Dee Bennett Road has been closed. Parts of the Illinois & Michigan Canal Towpath also were washed out.
It is unknown when the parks and towpath will be back to normal.
Meanwhile, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says several recreation areas are closed because of high water along the Mississippi River.
The closed areas include Shady Creek, Clark’s Ferry, Blanchard Island, Andalusia Slough, Kilpeck Landing and Ferry Landing recreation areas, WQAD-TV, Quad Cities, reported.
Camping reservations for two weeks after April 21 have been canceled and the corps says those campers will get a full refund.
Campsites will be reopened when areas have dried out enough and debris has been removed to allow safe access by vehicles.
To check the status of those facilities or whether further reservations are affected, go to www.recreation.gov.