ONSR making progress on flood recovery efforts

Many areas at Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) have been reopened following the historic flood that swept through the region at the end of April and early May.

While a remarkable amount has been accomplished since that time, there are still some areas that remain partially or totally closed, and others that are open with reduced amenities and services.

The National Park Service (NPS) is continuing to move forward with repairs and recovery at those areas, while evaluating facilities and services for sustainability in the future.  

As part of the ongoing recovery efforts, the NPS is undertaking an Integrated Park Improvement (IPI) planning process that will evaluate flood impacts park-wide and develop a strategy for restoring facilities and services in a manner that is more sustainable in a river corridor. This process is expected to take at least eight months.

“If anything good can come from such a devastating flood, it provides us with the opportunity to re-think which facilities can be re-located outside the flood zone,” said ONSR Superintendent Larry Johnson.

“We know that funding won’t be available to keep replacing or repairing facilities damaged or destroyed by recurrent flooding. The IPI process will help us move to a more sustainable operation while providing for visitor needs.”

An update on the current status and anticipated repairs for facilities and operations for impacted areas is listed below:

Lower Current River area

• The Big Spring Dining Lodge & Cabins have been closed since the fall of 2014 in preparation for extensive rehabilitation and restoration.

In the fall work will begin to replace the electrical and sewer utility systems, and move all electrical lines underground. Restoration work on the lodge and cabins is currently planned to begin in 2020, with planning and environmental compliance to be done in 2019.

“We had originally planned to repair the crucial life, health, and safety issues of the lodge and cabins with the intent to reopen them while the major renovations could be done,” said Johnson.

“However, the flood damage is too extensive to allow for that. Therefore, the facilities will remain closed while the major renovation work is completed, and the lodge and cabins will reopen after that work is done.”

• Replacement of the Big Spring bridge will begin in the fall of 2017 and is expected to take approximately one year for completion. While the bridge is closed during construction, visitors will still be able to reach Big Spring, the boat ramp, and campground via Peavine Road.

• Big Spring and Peavine pavilions — Both pavilions were destroyed in the flood, and the flood debris was recently removed from the sites. The concrete slabs remain intact at both pavilions, and picnic tables have been placed on them for gatherings and picnics.

At the Big Spring pavilion, restrooms are available nearby, water is available at the pavilion, and the grill will be replaced very soon. At the Peavine pavilion, a grill is available, but there is no restroom or water at the site.

Currently both pavilion sites are available first-come, first-served, but may be available in the future for reservation at a reduced fee at www.recreation.gov. Pop-up tents will be allowed as long as they remain on the concrete slab.

“Our intent is to rebuild these very popular pavilions so they are consistent with the historic landscape. At this time, we are uncertain as to how soon that can take place,” Johnson said. 

• Big Spring Campground — The campground suffered extensive damage and will not re-open in 2017. The Big Spring group campsites and restroom, as well as three loops in the main campground, the shower house and one additional restroom are tentatively planned to reopen by Memorial Day 2018.

• Chubb Hollow group campsite and the Chubb Hollow pavilion remain available for use. The Chubb Hollow group campsite is currently available on a first-come, first-served basis at a reduced rate of $25 per night. The Chubb Hollow pavilion is available first-come, first-served.

• Big Spring trails are in good condition for hiking.

• Pin Oak campground was completely destroyed during the flood and will not be reopened. The vault toilet and other remaining amenities will be removed from the area.

Middle Current River

• Powder Mill Campground and river access — This area sustained extensive damage. The campground will remain closed for the remainder of 2017. The river landing opened in mid-August, but the restroom facility will likely be unavailable due to the absence of electrical service.

The campground is tentatively slated to reopen in 2018, but that will be dependent on completion of road work in the campground, and the availability of electricity and a restroom facility.

• Goose Bay and Martin Bluff campsites — Currently the Goose Bay campsites are open. Due to extensive damage to the access road and campsite at Martin Bluff, future use of that area is being evaluated.

• Two Rivers Campground — The Two Rivers concession store will be replaced with a temporary mobile office building this fall. One of the primitive campsites along the river reopened in mid-August.

Upper Current River

• Pulltite Visitor Center was heavily damaged and has been closed this summer. Repair work is expected to begin over the winter, with reopening tentatively expected by Memorial Day 2018.

Jacks Fork River

• Alley Spring Campground — A new durable concrete shower house/restroom facility designed for use in flood prone areas was installed in the campground in late July. Portable toilets remain in each camping loop in the absence of flush toilets.

The regular summer camping rates and online reservation system were restored on July 28. Work to repair the existing damaged restroom buildings throughout the campground is expected to begin in the fall, with anticipated completion before Memorial Day 2018.

• Alley Spring and Mill area — Due to the damage to the utilities, it may be some time before the flush toilet facilities can be reopened. No estimated reopening date for the restroom is known. Portable toilets are available near the parking lots.

• Harvey’s Alley Spring Canoe Rental concession store is scheduled for repairs beginning in the fall.

• Shawnee Creek Campground — This backcountry camping area is currently open, but the restroom at the site is closed due to flood damage. Currently, no camping fee is being charged at this area.

In 2018, the restroom at Shawnee Creek Campground will be replaced with a new durable concrete vault toilet, designed for use in flood prone areas.

• Designated horse trails — The trails are still being surveyed and opened with assistance from trail volunteers. The Two Rivers, Shawnee and Broadfoot loops have been assessed and many areas have been cleared. The Jerktail Loop is still heavily impacted by flood debris, and will be assessed and opened in the next couple of months.

“While our park employees have worked diligently to reopen as many areas as possible, much work remains to be done before the level of ‘pre-flood’ operations can be restored. We’ll continue to work toward that end in the hopes that no further flooding sets us back,” Johnson said.

For more information about the Riverways, call (573) 323-4236; visit the park’s Facebook page, or website at www.nps.gov/ozar.

Ozark National Scenic Riverways preserves the free-flowing Current and Jacks Fork Rivers, the surrounding resources, and the unique cultural heritage of the Ozark people.

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