Tour Of Johnson's Shut-Ins Shows What's Open And What's Not

8:56 AM, May 25, 2006   |    comments
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By Mike Owens (KSDK) - It was a cold December morning when the Taum Sauk Reservoir owned by AmerenUE burst, flooding the valley below with 1.5 billion gallons of water. The flood inundated the entire park, including the popular "shut ins", big rocks in the middle of the Black River which were popular with swimmers. This year, no swimming. In fact, there will be park rangers making sure visitors don't go into the water. That's because when the water overtopped the reservoir, the walls collapsed, sending concrete and reinforcing bars flooding into the valley. It's believed that sharp rebar is in the river, as are sharp shards of concrete. Divers were called in to the area on Monday, to analyze what needs to be done. The park will use the flood as part of its interpretive program. The state, handed lemons with the damage, decided to make lemonade, by letting visitors see what damage was caused by the flood. There's a huge boulder field left by the flood near the park entrance. The field contains huge boulders, some as big as vans, dumped by the flood. The field was once of forest, now it's covered in deep sediment. There's also an elm tree. It survived 60 feet of flood. It is a symbol of the park's rebirth. Also still intact, the foundation of the home occupied by the Toops family. The family lived in the park, as caretakers. They were washed away in the deluge, but rescued safely. The foundation, the boulders, the torn up park are all part of an interpretive tour, explaining what happened. Park managers think visitors will be very interested in the flood and aftermath. The greatest downside: no swimming in the famous shut ins, which used to be the park's greatest feature. The problem: when the dam burst, tons of concrete and reinforcing steel flooded down. Now, some of that rebar, as it's called, is still in the river, and its sharp ends could injure swimmers. Divers were in the water on Monday, beginning the process of learning how much steel is in the river, and what to do about it. Meanwhile, the river is still murky down below the break. The greenish tint caused by the sediment that was the side of the mountain. Where there was once trees and dirt, there's rock. The experts call it a scour. That dirt is in the river, coating rocks, and making the river murky. A canoe outfitter, Bob "Bobo" Franklin, says the river is not like it was last year, but it's better than it was shortly after the flood. Franklin says there's plenty of clear water for floaters in the area. AmerenUE may have to take further steps to clear the water. Franklin says he's heard one plan: drain the lower reservoir, which filled with sediment after the flood, then use bulldozers to dig out the dirt.


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