Most of the Wilson Island State Recreation Area along the Missouri River has reopened to the public after being closed for 19 months due to flooding, but the campgrounds won’t reopen until mid-April.
Michelle Reinig, a district supervisor in the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says the number of campsites will be reduced — to eliminate the most flood-prone camping areas.
“We hope we can live with the river and still provide access to the resource and the public recreation, being good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” Reinig says. “…Let’s face it, it’s along the Missouri River and people are drawn there because of the river attraction, but then we don’t control the river and Mother Nature, so the river’s going to continue to be the ‘Mighty Mo’ and it’s going to flood again.”
Most of the 544 acre recreation area is now open for hunting, hiking and bird watching as well as fishing in the Missouri River. Reinig says the river levels fluctuated during the nine months that floodwaters remained in the area.
“Every time the flood waters come up and then they recede, it cuts back into the bank and it deposits new sand and silt elsewhere, so it creates new fishing holes along the riverfront there,” Reinig says.
There’s no fee to use the ramp in the recreation area that gives boats access to the river. Wilson Island, which is near the town of Missouri Valley, was originally a sand bar that developed around 1900. It’s named after George Wilson, a former Iowa governor and U.S. Senator. Some accounts indicate the Lewis and Clark Expedition camped in the area in 1804.