Dogwood Canyon reopens six months after devastating flooding

Published: Oct. 26, 2017 at 4:57 PM CDT
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In 1990, Bass Pro founder Johnny Morris acquired Dogwood Canyon, a beautiful parcel of land on the Missouri-Arkansas border that he turned into a park to protect and promote the Ozarks natural environment for all to see. But in April, mother nature did something no one could protect with more than 20-inches of rain that flooded the park and caused its closure.

Visitors have returned to Dogwood Canyon some six months after a devastating flood hit here and a month after it reopened after repairs.

"We had water waist-high in the gift shop here," said Ryan Hawkins, Dogwood Canyon's Activities Director.

The gift shop also became home for displaced trout during that flood that took out over a hundred trees and threatened to wash out the well-known Amish Bridge after the water rose some 15-feet.

"When we saw it was still there we were relieved but in shock at what it looked like," recalled Chad Phillips, Dogwood Canyon's Park Director. "There was a ;lot of debris poking through the bridge and the water had come up to the surface of the bridge which had never happened as well."

What had been referred to as a paradise-like setting suddenly looked like paradise lost.

"You were just kind of in shock and disbelief," Hawkins said.

"I was at ground zero watching whole trees and stumps and boulders and things being moved that none of us had ever seen happen," Phillips added. "I don't think any of us expected it to be as devastating as it was."

Dogwood Canyon is back to its idyllic setting. The violent water that once covered the entire canyon, moving tons of boulders and leaving creek gravel all over the grass, is now back within its banks and gently supplying a comforting view to visitors to enjoy the tranquility. The park is not only open, but supplying some new activities like scavenger hunts and storytelling trails.

"We have panels mounted along the trail that go up into the woods," Hawkins explains. "And the kids can read the story page by page as they go along."

Officials say they've learned a lot from the experience.

"All the new footbridges have been made where the railings can actually be unpinned and removed," Hawkins said.

And they've tried to improve things as they've had to rebuild.

"People that have been here for years will come back now and see it, and go 'what did you guys do'," Phillips said. "Well, it's not what we did, it's what mother nature did."