Fort Snelling now closed due to Mississippi flooding, with high waters affecting boaters as well

Fort Snelling now closed due to Mississippi flooding, with high waters affecting boaters as well

Fort Snelling now closed due to Mississippi flooding, with high waters affecting boaters as well

The National Weather Service says the Mississippi River is now at major flood stage, with waters 17 feet high and rising.

“I’ve never seen it this high before, never this high before,” declared Sophia Pham, who was checking on her brother’s boat Friday at the Watergate Marina in St. Paul. “I drove down to Stillwater today, just to check out the water levels down there, and worked our way up here.”  

At Crosby Farm Park, pathways and parking lots are underwater.

Flooded park roads are now blocked off.

And now, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has closed Fort Snelling State Park as of Friday.

“What’s unusual with this, is both the Minnesota and Mississippi are kind of cresting about the same time,” explains Rachel Hopper, the DNR’s Visitor Services and Outreach Manager. “With high water levels and roads and trails washed out, floodwaters can be really unpredictable, and the water’s very cold this time of year. So we really worry about the public’s safety.”

At Fort Snelling’s front entrance, would-be park users were doing U-turns after learning about the closure.   

“We were in Hidden Falls State Park earlier today and it was pretty flooded, so they probably made the right decision,” says Oliver Bopespflug, of St. Paul.  “One of the parking lots was completely flooded. They weren’t allowing any cars in there, so we just walked down there. A lot of wildlife in the water, but not a lot of people.”

For frequent park users, it’s a bit of flooding déjà vu.

In 2019, river flooding forced Fort Snelling State Park to shut down for six months.

The DNR says those high waters cost more than a half-million dollars in damage and lost revenue.

“We have to do a lot of silt removal to all the debris that is carried in by the floodwaters,” Hopper notes. “We have to remove that before we can even get our vehicles in certain areas and repairs needed for infrastructure.”

The flooding is causing other headaches.

At the Watergate Marina, the boat ramp is now underwater.   

John Lenz, of Mendota Heights, says he’s among the lucky watercraft owners here — his fishing boat is undamaged, and safely floating on the water.

“We were fortunate enough to get our boat in the water in the lovely spring weather we had a couple of weeks ago,” he says. “The landing’s closed because the seawall is completely underwater, so just kind of coming to check on the boat — and I was glad I brought my waders because you need them to access it.”

Some boats at the marina are being towed to dry land, while others will stay out on the water.

Pfam says her brother’s dock went underwater between Thursday and Friday.

“I can’t even get to his dock right now,” she says. “Normally, you have to walk down, and you’re at a decline. Now you go straight out.”

The National Weather Service says the Mississippi could rise another foot and a half before it crests sometime in the coming week.  

The DNR says it’s unclear when Snelling Park will be reopened.

Hopper says that will likely depend on when the river waters recede.

“Once the floodwaters recede, our staff will go out and kind of inspect everything,” she notes. “Make sure it’s safe again — that there are no safety hazards, so that users will be safe, staff will be safe.”