Flood Recovery - Update May 12
Contact: Keith A. Jefferson, 870-365-2798
Buffalo National River is continuing to assess and repair flood damage. Repairs to roads, trail, boat launches are in full swing, and we are asking our visitors to have patience as crews work to bring the areas back to a safe and operational state. Initial focus has been on critical infrastructure related to visitor use, to insure that people coming to the park continue to have an enjoyable and safe experience. However, in some areas the flooding will have a long-term effect, particularly on trails and river access points. In addition, some repairs are of a magnitude so great that with the current budget situation, it will take some time, perhaps years, to fully implement the desired repairs or reconstruction.
Lost Valley will remain closed until further notice. The bridge over Clark Creek was a total loss, and much of the trail was scoured, including the lower section which was engineered to accommodate wheelchair access. Near the top end of the trail below Eden Cave, there is a segment of trail in danger of slumping off into the creek and is considered a high risk to visitor safety. Engineers have already assessed damages and are developing plans for bridge replacement and repairs to the trail system. Emergency repairs to trails may be completed in three weeks, but full repair that incorporates redesign, materials, and construction is a long way off with an estimated price tag of $250,000. When Lost Valley does reopen, visitors will find that tables and fire grates have been removed and that camping is no longer allowed. This interim measure has been taken for several reasons, including the recognition of flash flood danger to campers, the loss of vegetative cover, and the overall poor design of many of the sites and the campground as a whole. Long-term evaluation of alternative road access, campground location, and other facilities will be on the planning table, but in the meanwhile the park will make every effort to maintain Lost Valley as a day-use area.
A segment of the trail system at Rush Mining District was closed yesterday due to the opening of a sinkhole. Sinkholes are common features in a karst geological landscape and may appear suddenly and dramatically. This one is typical, but unfortunately coincides with a hiking trail and thus poses a safety hazard that is being evaluated by park natural resource staff.
River access at Buffalo Point has also been examined. The 2008 and the 2011 floods have heavily impacted this location. Redesign and reconstruction here is estimated in excess of $1.2 million. While access is open to those who wish to carry their watercraft from the parking lot down to the gravel bar, there are places undercut in the last flood that pose a falling hazard. Parents should keep a close watch on their children as there is the potential for a twenty-foot fall in some places here.
For all areas in the park, please exercise caution because many rough areas still exist. Visitors may now access updated park conditions by calling 870/365-2700 X 503. This extension will provide information on any current or potential closures or special conditions within the park, ranging from flood repair to temporary routine maintenance work. As always, any hazardous conditions or emergencies should be reported to the park’s dispatch at 888/692-1162.