This summer marks the twenty-year anniversary of the infamous “floods of ‘93” that caused much destruction and inconvenience for Iowans. As Marion County is home to Lake Red Rock, the largest lake in Iowa (www.lakeredrock.com), the effects of the flooding were, in some ways, more severe than other Iowa Counties. In the coming weeks, the Journal Express will provide more reflections about the flooding in 1993 from various individuals who were involved with flooding issues in the Marion County area.
In the summer of 1993, the tainter gates on the dam at Lake Red Rock were opened for only the second time ever, and some roads and highways were rendered impassable in the floods as well (Journal Express). Reflecting on some effects of the flooding this week is Steve Edwards from Marion County Conservation.
Edwards has been with Marion County Conservation since 1979 as the Director for the Marion County Conservation Board. The public areas of Marion County that were most deeply affected from Edwards’ standpoint are Cordova Park and Roberts Creek Park. Roberts Creek West campground suffered a lack of patronage because highway G28 was blocked off for a period of time in the summer of 1993.
Revenue that typically would have come in from Roberts Creek was down in 1993 not only because of the blocked road leading to Roberts Creek West, but also because the weather was simply not conducive to camping. According to Edwards, it rained almost every weekend, and people were doubtful about the usability of Red Rock campgrounds during that time; Roberts Creek was down 600 units. Though Roberts Creek East was open and somewhat accessible, there were only about 25-30 units available for campers during the floods. Edwards says “They heard all the publicity about Lake Red Rock in the paper and on T.V., and thought all the campgrounds were closed or not usable.”
Among other financial issues for the county to deal with due to flooding was re-seeding of grass after the water went down. Edwards says much of the grass around the gravel parking lots had to be re-seeded because the prolonged flooding killed off the grass that had been there before. “There was a lot of general maintenance/cleanup once the water receded,” Edwards says. Many of the roads that had been submerged during the floods were covered in silt and other debris when the roads were no longer covered in water.
The boat ramps were closed during the severe flooding as well, and only those with small boats that did not need a ramp to get in the water had lake access. Edwards reflects that some fishermen were able to take advantage of this, though. He said of the people who used the high water levels to fish, “They could fish places they’d never been able to fish before in the upper regions of the lake. You could fish from some of the roads, too.” Even though there were some individuals who were able to fish in new places, Edwards says the general amount of fishing was impacted negatively because of the lack of boat ramp access.
Following the floods, to prepare for future potential inaccessibility, a road was built above the flood line from the house of the Roberts Creek East park ranger. During the floods in 1993, Edwards recalls that the park ranger had to basically come up through the East campground to get out.
The last year for flooding that Edwards remembers as potentially destructive and inconvenient was in 2008, when the boat ramps had to be closed. However, all the roads remained open. From the perspective of Marion County Conservation, the flooding in 2008 was nowhere near as destructive as the floods of 1993. He says, “There were some minor inconveniences in 2008, but not major ones as compared to 1993.”