High waters from the Mississippi force Champlin park to close — residents wonder what will happen next
The power of the Mississippi River is on full display at the East Coon Rapids dam.
The swift current heading south is strong enough to carry huge tree trunks and other debris.
“Oh no doubt, nature’s got some power,” declares Troy Hinchcliff, from St. Francis.
Hinchcliff was among the visitors to Mississippi Point Park in Champlin Saturday.
The park is now closed to vehicular traffic.
Its picnic and parking areas are underwater.
The river is swollen from Minnesota’s recent and rapid snow melt.
“We were like in the slow melt, but the fast one came instead,” says Tom Jenson, who lives in Champlin.
“I had probably at least three feet of snow maybe a week-and-a-half ago,” Hinchcliff adds. “It all melted in three days, so I guess all that water goes somewhere. Here it is.”
But the high water isn’t the only problem.
Nick Shope, a chief ranger with the National Park Service, says the snow melt is causing fast-flowing currents and low water temperatures — dangerous for river users.
“We got a lot of debris that’s floating in the river,” he explains. “You just never know when there’s a tree or a chunk of ice floating by. We got a lot of non-motorized users that canoe and kayak and stuff. With these increased water flows and extra debris, it really creates very hazardous conditions”.
This week, the park service shut down 50 access points along the St. Croix River — landings used by boaters and fishermen.
Still, the swollen Mississippi is a draw for some people.
Elisabeth Grant-Gibson is visiting the area from Natchez, Mississippi.
She wonders how the river’s southern flow will affect her community.
“I’m a little nervous, ‘cos it’s coming for us,” Grand-Gibson notes. “If it’s up here and I can see how high the water is, it’s going to come right down through other cities — and we’ll be seeing some really high waters, I think.”
Along the St. Croix River, Stillwater residents are bracing for the river to reach major flood stage between Sunday night and Monday.
In Hastings, riverfront docks along the Mississippi are underwater and water levels are creeping up into areas that were dry land. Many are concerned about what’s coming next.
“It’s high, but I don’t remember it running this hard,” says Cissy Howard, from Coon Rapids. “I’m just worried it’s coming from here, from other rivers to down south. I don’t know what it’s going to do further down.”