Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park Revisited
It was one of Missouri's most spectacular state parks. The cool, turbulent waters of the Black River, densely forested campgrounds, and hushed atmosphere drew up to 1,000 visitors at a time on summer weekends.
But, that all changed on Dec. 14 when a breach in the Taum Sauk reservoir sent at least 1 billion gallons of water racing through the Black River Valley. When the wall of water raced down Profit Mountain, it stripped the soil down to the bedrock, leveled nearly every tree in its path, andscoured a hole through the Black River, effectively damming it.
"You can't come to the site without being awed by the amount of destruction that has taken place here," admitted Greg Combs, state parks field operations supervisor.
Added Janet Price, Johnson's Shut-Ins naturalist, "I've probably spent more time in the campground then I have at my own home in those years. I stood in the middle of it and I did not know where I was."
This is what the north campground looked like before the torrent of water roared through. This is what it looks like now. The trail and boardwalk leading to the shut-ins is badly damaged and blocked by debris.
"The focus for us is to go through the process, assess the situation, make the best decision possible, and take into consideration all the resource significance of the park."
"The primary focus for the site is to begin to look at some of the sediment control and stabilization."
By doing that, officials say the murky water may someday clear up.
"Obviously, the main features of the park that were affected were our campground and our day-use area where the day-use visitors came in, as well as our drinking water systems and our wastewater system were also were destroyed."
Crews are working to restore the park to as close to pre-flood conditions as possible.
"It's still going to be a jewel of the state park system that the folks will continue to come to," said Brian Allen, environmental resource coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources. "This is actually probably going to get more folks to come here who maybe hadn't been here before."
"It's going to be different. And the people that come in, I think, this will be a great learning experience for them, too. They are going to be able to see how the succession occurs and how these things change and what the water can do."
When spring comes, park officials and other Missourians will anxiously wait for the first signs of new growth.
"A lot of people have very fond memories of their visits to Missouri state parks and, probably, specifically to Johnson's Shut-Ins because it is one of our jewels in the state park system. Even now, this park, we will get to restore this park."
With videographer Scott Schaefer, I'm Josh deBerge.
Fortunately, there were no visitors in the park when it flooded. And, the park superintendent's family, who were swept from their home, have recovered from their injuries.
For more information on the park's condition, log onto KOMU.com and check the Journeys with Josh blog in the Message Board section.
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