For 14 weeks, Doug and Linda Larson waited.
They, along with many others, piled sandbags along the Missouri River shoreline, according to a report by the Yankton (S.D.) Press and Dakotan. They watched the water rise as Gavins Point Dam releases were increased to 160,000 cubic feet per second (CFS). Finally, they held their breath and said prayers as the floodwaters lapped at the property just below the mobile home they bought after evacuating their residence closer to the shore.
“That was the meanest looking river I’ve ever seen,” Doug said. “It moved so fast that it was scary, and you didn’t want to get near it.”
Now, the owners of Larson’s Landing RV Park west of Yankton are beginning to clean up the aftermath of the summer flood since the flows from Gavins Point are at a much more normal 40,000 CFS.
“For 14 weeks we sat here not knowing if we had anything,” Linda said. “Then it started going down and we’d say, ‘Oh, that’s still there, and this is here.’ It gave us some light. But 14 weeks of not knowing what’s happening is way too long.”
The barricade of sandbags was eventually overcome by water, and the earth behind it was left pockmarked. Most of those holes have since been filled in with sand. A pile of trees, mobile home decks and sandbag material awaits disposal. Tens of thousands of sandbags still line the shore, despite volunteer efforts to get rid of them.
“Clean-up has been slow, but it’s coming along,” Doug said. “Several retired campers (who live in the park) are working every day. I can’t believe how much that helps, and I’m really grateful for it.”
The Larsons are in the process of receiving a loan from the Small Business Administration to get things up and running by next summer.
“It’s not quite what we were looking for, but it sure as heck is a lot better than nothing,” Doug said. “We’re glad we got it, and we’ll work with it.”
Many changes are in store for the property, he stated. Eighteen mobile home pads near the shore that once hosted long-term residents will not be replaced.
“That’s one of the things that really hurt — having to move these people out who had homes here for 18 years,” Doug said. “That really gave me some lumps in my throat.”
Those permanent pads will become camping spots instead.
“We’ll change this over to a summer-type operation rather than year-round,” Doug said.
Another change will involve reconfiguration of the marina area. Also, much of the beach that was once enjoyed by residents has been washed away.
“Before people could go wade in the water,” Doug said. “They won’t be able to do that anymore.”
One of the biggest surprises for the Larsons was the number of trees downed by beavers.
“It was like a smorgasbord,” Linda said. “They’d eat one off until it tipped over and then move on to the next one.”
They hope that part of the park will be restored by Memorial Day.
“We’ll have all the existing RV pads back in operation,” Doug said. “But we’re still out of all this area that had mobile homes. That will be a year-long project to redo.”
Linda added, “It’s exciting to see things coming together. You always have to look forward. That’s what we’re doing.”