Given the rash of bad weather that’s been striking Iowa, state officials say it’s wise to have a quick exit strategy in mind if you’re camping in a state park this summer.
“Water is a major feature at a majority of our state parks and as a result, a lot of them are in low-lying areas that could be more susceptible to flood when we get the kind of precipitation that we’ve seen so far,” says Iowa Department of Natural Resources spokesman Kevin Baskins.
On Memorial Day campers at Springbrook State Park near Guthrie Center had to seek higher ground because persistent rain caused a creek in the park to rise. Baskins suggests that campers maintain electronic contact with the outside world.
“Have access to information — radios, your cell phones — so that you can watch the weather and see what it’s doing,” Baskins says. “It’s also good once you get to the camp ground to have a plan. If the weather does turn foul on you, what kind of things are you going to do? Where will you seek shelter? At what point is it maybe best just to leave for the night?”
Rising river waters could force state officials to close portions of the Wapsipinicon State Park near Anamosa sometime today and, depending on the damage, those areas would remain closed for the 4th of July weekend. Baskins says a wedding planned in the park may have to be moved or rescheduled.
“Kind of one of those things you have to consider when you make those initial plans is the possibility that the elements won’t cooperate with you as much as you would have liked,” Baskins says.
The forecast issued mid-Thursday indicated the Wapsipinicon River would crest just under 23 feet today inside the park.
“The original estimate was that it could go as high as 27 (feet), which would have been over the 2008 flood stage,” Baskins says. “Nevertheless, we’re still going to have some access issues with that park.”
Visitors can only drive into the park through its south entrance. Some amenities within the park, including a lodge and a playground, will be inaccessible due to the rising water.
State officials say the George Wyth State Park near Waterloo may reopen July 1 “if conditions allow.” The campground in the Yellow River State Forest near Harpers Ferry in the far corner of northeast Iowa has been heavily damaged by flooding and state officials aren’t sure when it may reopen.