Some state parks close after heavy storm damage

By: - August 11, 2020 3:48 pm

A large tree limb fell on a camper at Walnut Woods State Park on Aug. 10, 2020. (Photo by Perry Beeman/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

The straight-line winds from Monday’s storm in Iowa left several campers damaged by falling tree limbs and robbed some campgrounds of power, state officials report. 

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources warned park users on Monday to check online warnings or call parks before visiting. 

“The Iowa DNR urges visitors to avoid the areas or use extreme caution as staff work to assess the damage and begin clean-up efforts,” DNR spokesman Alex Murphy said in a statement late Monday.

The force of the derecho storm became clear as state crews assessed the toll on Tuesday. There were no reports of injuries, but tree and property damage were widespread.

DNR posted photos of a camping trailer hit by large tree limbs at Walnut Woods State Park in West Des Moines and trailers tipped over at Pleasant Creek State Park and Rock Creek, where a tree crushed a trailer, too. 

Anthony Heddlesten was camping at Springbrook State Park Monday. “We had just pulled out of our spot at Springbrook and a tree fell right where our truck was mere seconds before,” Heddlesten posted on DNR’s Facebook page Tuesday. “Yesterday was crazy!”

It’s been an unusual year at the parks, where the state is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Backbone State Park near Strawberry Point, Iowa’s first state park. The coronavirus pandemic stopped many events, but parks have been heavily used as visitors enjoy outings where social distancing is easier than at a restaurant, bar, or movie theater. 

At Big Creek State Park northwest of Des Moines, rangers were closing parts of the park for cleanup and the east-side boat ramps were closed. Docks were damaged. Equipment at the beach concession was damaged and some boat rentals were canceled. The Neal Smith trail was blocked in places. Power was off in the park. 

Lake Macbride State Park in Johnson County was closed after the storm downed utility lines, leaving the park without power. 

The staff at Union Grove State Park in Tama County expected the park to be without power for several days. 

Wapsipinicon State Park in Jones County was closed Tuesday due to extensive damage and blocked roadways. 

Rock Creek State Park in Jasper County was without power, which was expected to be out until Wednesday.

The state will continue to offer updates online.

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