Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Ice storms, spring floods blamed for park damage

Carbondale, Ill. – Ferne Clyffe State Park, the Tunnel Hill
State Trail and the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge have been
scarred by Mother Nature’s self-inflicted wounds this spring.

Damage caused by late-winter ice storms and early-spring
flooding will impact the region throughout the summer recreation
season.

The Tunnel Hill State Trail, a twisting 45-mile meander from
Harrisburg to Karnak, was probably the most adversely affected.

“Every mile was affected,” said Bill Reynolds, the DNR site
superintendent at Ferne Clyffe. “We had washing and scouring of the
surface. Slowly, but surely, we’re working on sections so we can
re-open them when they are deemed to be safe.”

February and March exacted a heavy toll on the region.

“It was a chain of weather events,” Reynolds said. “It started
on Feb. 5 with flash flooding that damaged trails. On the 11th, we
had ice damage. Then on March 18 we had the rain. The whole
southern Illinois region had 8-12 inches.”

The surface of the Tunnel Hill State Trail was damaged by
washing. In addition, parts of the trail were closed because of
trees and limbs downed by the February ice storm.

“We’re bringing it up to where foot traffic shouldn’t be an
issue,” Reynolds said. “We’re telling bicyclists it’s not the same
surface they’re used to so they should be prepared for a little bit
more of a rougher ride.

“We’re now working to open sections from one community to the
next. We’re taking those areas with the least amount of work so we
can open those sections.”

Ferne Clyffe also suffered considerable damage due to the ice
storms.

“All the roads in the primary areas, those have been re-opened,”
Reynolds said. “We do have some trails where the damage is so
severe we’ve closed the trails.

“The last time I saw an ice storm like that was in central
Illinois in the late ‘70s where people were out of power for 7 or 8
days or more. To me, it resembled the damage you see in the
wide-sweeping tornadoes in terms of the number of trees down.”

Reynolds said visitors to Ferne Clyffe or the Tunnel Hill State
Trail might want to call site offices for up-to-date information on
trail closures. The number at Ferne Clyffe is 618-995-2411 and the
Tunnel Hill State Trail number is 618-658-2168.

The Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge also took a hit.

“We have quite a bit of infrastructure damage,” said Dan Frisk,
refuge manager. “Our campground, the Crab Orchard Campground, the
concession building was damaged to where we are going to demolish
it.”

Although there was some damage to trees and trails caused by the
February ice storm, most of the damage at Crab Orchard was due to
flooding. Most of the damage at the refuge was limited to Crab
Orchard Lake. Damage at Devils Kitchen and Little Grassy lakes was
minimal.

“We crested at 411.1, our pool is 405, so we were six feet
above,” Frisk said. “It’s never had anything that high before.
There was water all the way into the concession building and The
Haven was flooded.”

In addition to the campground concession, docks were damaged by
high waters. Moist soil units on the refuge also were damaged by
flooding. Buoys marking hazards in the lake were washed away.

“We have to go out and replace a lot of those buoys for
obstacles, and there may be new obstacles on the lake,” Frisk
said.

Elsewhere, Dixon Springs State Park lost about 50 trees in the
ice storm. The trails in the park were closed through February and
March as a result.

Flooding also created problems at the Golconda Marina.

Becky Banker, spokesperson for the Shawnee National Forest, said
flooding caused the forest to close some roads. The most
significant closure was at Rattlesnake Ferry.

“We’ve spent a good bit of time in the last several weeks doing
some clearing along trails because of the ice damage,” she
said.

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