Backbone State Park Closed While Storm Damage is Cleared

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STRAWBERRY POINT – Work crews are clearing debris form the roads at Backbone State Park from the storm Sunday night that dumped nearly seven inches of rain in three hours. The popular park in northeast Iowa a few miles south of Strawberry Point was evacuated Sunday ahead of the storm.

Jerry Reisinger, supervisor with the DNR’s State Parks Bureau for northeast Iowa was touring the park on Tuesday and said the entire park will be closed for at least a week while workers clean up the damage. He said the electrical service has been restored and water is again available.

The whole north end of the park, including the east, west and north gates and trout streams are closed. Crews are using chainsaws and a pay-loader from the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) to work their way through the downed trees. “We have not been able to get through the north end,” Reisinger said.

The nearly four miles of park roads wind through a mixture of steep banks and floodplains. The flash flooding overwhelmed the bridges and roads, taking out roads in places leaving holes three feet deep. Road sections near steep banks were covered with material and trees – some up to two feet in diameter – that had sloughed down the bank. The DOT will be sending crews to help with road and bridge inspection.

“Ninety percent of the damage is flood related, but there was some wind damage,” Reisinger said. The DNR’s AmeriCorps trails crew is on its way to assist clearing debris and other parks are sending dump trucks, wood chippers and other equipment from around the state.

Reisinger said other damage includes a blanket of silt between three and 18 inches deep covering the parking lots. The beach at Backbone Lake is also covered in silt and an estimated 50 picnic tables are missing, but believed to still be somewhere in the park.

Campers who have a cabin or campsite reservation and anyone with a reservation for a shelter in the park should call the park office at 563-924-2527 and leave a message. With all available park staff working to clear the debris, callers may not receive an immediate response. The parks popular trout streams will not be accessible to anglers as well.

“The park won’t be in good shape for weeks to come, but once the park dries out and the debris cleared, we can get people back in to enjoy a picnic or something. But the park is going to be in rough shape this summer,” Reisinger said.

Media Contact: Mick Klemesrud at 515-281-8653.