Mark Twain National Forest hosted a flood recovery field visit on Aug. 28-30 with government officials from Washington.

Visitors included U.S. Forest Service Deputy Chief Leslie Weldon, Emilee Blount (engineering, technology and geospatial services), Rachael Thurston (assistant transportation program manager), Michiko Martin (acting director, recreation, heritage & volunteer resources and director, conservation education), and Josiah Kim, (Region 9 director of engineering and acting director for recreation, wilderness, heritage and volunteer services).

U.S. Forest Service Washington office employees get a tour led by Eleven Point Ranger District employees of the Boze Mill area to see an example of the Karst topography here in Missouri and the historical use of these springs for milling and other uses.

Weldon and her national engineering and recreation directors traveled from Washington, D.C., to view some of the flood damage experienced at Mark Twain National Forest (MTNF) facilities and the work that has been completed to reopen sites.

On Monday, the group toured Red Bluff Recreation Area and Crane Lake. They witnessed campground damage that resulted from the latest flood in May, and discussed the proposal to move campsites and overnight facilities out of the floodplain at Red Bluff.

At Crane Lake dam, MTNF staff explained the findings of the engineering studies and the need to repair the dam to meet federal regulation.

Both Crane Lake and Red Bluff have involved constant community engagement with their long-term efforts. This public participation has led to a collaborative approach that will help these projects move forward through recovery and improvement efforts.

On Tuesday, the group visited the Eleven Point Ranger District to witness the damage and ongoing recovery efforts at Watercress Recreation Area. After departing Watercress, the tour stopped at a site within the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) area.  

This site demonstrated the successful results of the Forest’s ecosystem management and the key role in prescribed fire in making the Forest resilient and productive. Many partnerships were involved in the successful implementation of the CFLRP.

The group also had a chance to see the karst environment of Missouri in action at the spring at Boze Mill, and to see the historic artifacts left at many of the Forest’s springs from previous landowners harnessing the water flow.

The day ended with a trip to the Greer Mill historic building, which has been an ongoing restoration project that has involved HistoriCorps, Conservation Legacy interns, AmeriCorps, Conservative Anabaptist Service Program, and the local group Friends of the Eleven Point.

On the last day of the trip, everyone was able to take in the extreme damage that flooding can do by visiting North Fork Recreation Area in the Ava/Cassville/Willow Springs Ranger District. The crumpled remains of the Highway CC bridge across from the day use area and downriver from its replacement (under construction) evidenced the magnitude of the event that set new flood records in the area.  

Many employees on the MTNF came together to make the tour successful in the hopes that their experiences in short-term and long-term flood recovery, and in other recreation and ecosystem management challenges, could be shared with the WO and RO delegation.

As stories were shared along the tour, everyone gained insight on how to create sustainable recreation and successfully manage ecosystems in the face of large challenges, such as record-setting flood events.

Three days of travel across Missouri also highlighted the economic relevance of National Forest System land to the communities dependent on outdoor recreation and forest products, and the tour showed the importance of working together with partners, communities, and state and federal agencies to continue to overcome challenges and move toward the future.