Friday, December 23, 2005

The Taum Sauk Flood & Johnson's Shut-Ins

(Update: When I wrote the following, I left out the fact that a family had been swept up in the billion-gallon flood. I didn't know much about them, and, while I knew they were alive, I didn't know how they were doing. Anything I could write would have distracted from my focus on the natural beauty of Johnson's Shut-Ins, and would been inadequate to convey the humanity of the tragedy.

Today's Star has a truly excellent article that fills in the picture vividly. Imagine being awakened at 4 a.m. by a freezing flood crushing your house and scattering your children.)


Over on the eastern side of Missouri is a geological marvel called Johnson's Shut-Ins, just downstream from Taum Sauk Mountain, the highest point in the state of Missouri. In mid-December, a reservoir broke and unleashed a flood that roared through the area, destroying houses and other structures in its path. Since then, I've been wondering how badly damaged the shut-ins themselves are.

Before December, the shut-ins consisted of a rocky area that the Black River flowed through, full of wild rock formations and a cliff where you could leap into the river, but only if you cleared the rocks close to shore. Only morons attempted it - I was one of them.

Here is an awesome photo of the break in the reservoir:

Here are some photos of the damage to the shut-ins from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources site:

It looks like there's some bad silting in the park, and I don't know how long it will take for the water to clear.

I, like most natives of the east coast of Missouri, have fond memories of Johnson's Shut-ins, and I hope it will be able to be fully restored.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the Shut-In's as a young adult with my children. I divorced and remarried and moved to Michigan a few years ago. I had discribed the Shut In's and had always tried to visit there when we were in the area. Finally on Thanksgiving this year I was able to find time to show her the area. We visited and she was in awe that what I described to her was as beautiful as I said. There was a tree that was lodged in there similar to what is being shown as damage on that day.

I am so glad we got to see it before it was damaged.

12/31/2005 3:39 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

Our family discovered Johnson Shut-Ins back in the the middle sixties when there were as few as a dozen campsites. We often were one of only three or four tent campers there on the weekends. Those of you who know the shut-ins know the natural beauty and the absolute joy of playing in the rapids as the crystal clear water surged and splashed through literally a hundred different chutes, pools and miniature waterfalls among the smooth rocks and boulders. We had names for our favorites. There was the "bubble bath" and the "whirl pool", the "water slide" and those I can't remember. Then there was the bottomless pool at the bottom of the shut-ins where high diving and scuba diving could be enjoyed. When we had the peace and quiet of this nature and water paradise virtually all to ourselves, we felt especially blessed. As the sport of camping escalated during the seventies and news of this wonderful water playground spread the campground was expanded. The rowdy college crowd and beer drinkers flooded the park and our paradise came to an end. It was still good to visit about six years ago and see the spot we once loved so much. It saddens me to learn that of this despoiling by the dam break, but it will recover in time. Mother nature always reclaims what is rightfully hers.

1/15/2006 2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived in Potosi, Missouri off of Route 21 for several years. One of the main reason I moved from Dallas, Texas was because of Johnson's Shut-In's. I imagined taking my daughter there every summer for the rest of our lives. She was born April 2004 and we never made it there before its' destruction. I am truly saddened by the destruction. It hurts a many of beautiful souls out there in Iron County. The people of this area are amazingly nice and so down to earth. I have never met so many people involved in the environment as Missourians are. The conservation department is exceptional. The Johnson's Shut-ins needs to be the shot heard around the world. What an awful man-made catastrophe.

7/03/2007 11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been going to the Shut-Ins since the late 70's with my family. We would go on our annual canoe trip down the Black River and we would go to the Shut-Ins almost every summer. I live in the Chicago area now and would take my "city friends" down there. Going to the Shut-Ins was always the highlight of the trip. It was so sad to view the photos and see all of the destruction. The trees that will take years to grow back was probably the most devastating...it will never be the same place.

8/01/2007 8:01 PM  
Blogger nostalgic said...

It is so nice to find people who actually care about the area surrounding Iron and Reynolds counties. It is good to know there are folks with fond memories of the shut-ins. I wish I could find more who are seriously interested in the fate of this beautiful region.
We moved to this area 19 years ago. In our younger years we frequented the area with family and friends. We fell in love with the natural beauty of the area. I couldn't believe there were so many beautiful parks and recreation areas located within a short distance of one another. Johnson shut-ins was a major draw for us.

What has happened at Johnson Shut-ins was a shameful event, however God is reclaiming what he designed and every day the Shut-ins are looking as beautiful as they every have. If people want to enjoy the blessing of the Shut-ins and other natural areas in the future they must become more involved in demanding responsible behaviors from corporations. Humans have a way of messing up natural beauty.
The big question in all of this is have people learned a lesson from this tragedy? Will they learn from mistakes resulting from greed and be more responsible with nature and human life? The majority will rule. The people have the say. If the majority of people want the beautiful Reynolds and Iron Counties to be at the mercy of large inconsiderat neighbors,than the counties will be in that situation. There has been talk of large growth for the area. If the majority wants the two counties to be over run with large hotel, store and restaurant chains. Than they will be. Unfortunately the nature lovers and folks with an eye for beauty must be few because this is definitely not the group the Government is hearing from. After this tragedy the Missouri Government stated that the people of Missouri wanted restitution for the incident by recieving funding to finish the Katie trail. It seemed there aren't many folks interested in Missouri's three major parks. Or are there folks interested and they just haven't spoke up. If people care why aren't they calling the Govenor's office?

10/31/2007 12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a native of missouri and have lived about 60 miles north of the shut-ins for 25 years. Always looked forward to absorbing some awesome natural beauty of the park, from the time I was a young boy, spending summer days there with my family. All the way through high school, spending time with friends at the shut-ins. I was in the middle east when the resevoir broke. But upon moving home, I gained employment with Kirkwood Masonry out of St. louis. Our company has been workin at the shut-ins aprox. 18months now. And just northwest of the original Johnson Shut-ins state park, at a new park. Goggin's Mountain, is considered part of the park but is 1/4 mile west on N. Then about 1 mile north on O. Although the park is definately changed, and somewhat unfortuneately. The only changes i detect are in the entrance to the park. The Granite formations in the black river, are as magnificant as ever. And the boardwalk turned out really really neat. You can learn quite a bit about the shut-ins on the walk down to the river now. But point is although i'm there for work on a daily basis I enjoy its beauty as much or more, than ever. And although the park is currently closed. I believe the shut ins, and the new neighboring park will be open full time this summer 2009, maybe spring. You might be able to find out a date if you are planing a trip, by checking with Missouri conservation dept., ameren ue (power company duping 100's of millions into the project, since it was there resevior that burst) or Mac Tech, the construction company overseeing all construction.

1/10/2009 9:52 PM  

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