For Memorial Day weekend, the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers’ Little Rock District is making residents and travelers aware of closed campsites due to high water and health and safety recommendations due to COVID-19.
Due to the pandemic, the Corps of Engineers has been forced to shut down campgrounds and recreation areas across the county. As the reopening process has begun in the Midwest, the Little Rock District had announced plans to start reopening campgrounds and recreation areas on May 20. However, due to recent heavy rainfall, some campgrounds and camping sites will have to remain closed due to high water.
In the Table Rock Lake District, the Baxter Park sites No. 6 through 29 are closed; at Big M Park sites No. 22 and 38 are closed; at Campbell Point Park sites No. 22 and No. 24 through 30 are closed; at Cape Fair Park sites No. 7 though 10, 12, 13 and 18 through 21 are closed; at Mill Creek Park sites No. 8 through 11, 13 though 16, 18, and sites 21 through 67 are closed; at Old Highway 86 sites 19 through 25, 68 though 71 and 73 through 76 are closed; and in Viola Park sites 17 through 19, 33 through 40, 43, 45, 46, 47, 49, 51 and 52 are closed, according to a press release.
Additionally, most, if not all, Table Rock Lake beaches are under water and Eagle Rock and Old Highway 86 boat ramps are also unusable. All campsites at Beaver Creek Park on Bull Shoals Lake are closed.
As places around the county are just starting to reopen in coordination with Memorial Day Weekend, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Little Rock District Chief of Public Affairs Jay Townsend said people should be prepared for one of the busiest weekends of the year, but also be prepared to stay healthy and safe.
“We definitely want them to keep safety at the forefront of their minds when they’re out this year,” said Townsend. “No. 1, we want them to practice safe social distancing while they’re at our parks and our recreation areas, so we can keep those open and keep giving people an avenue to get outside. But again, doing it safely with social distancing in mind.”
Due to high water, Townsend said plans to take a dip in one of the district’s lakes or creeks should be postponed.
“A lot of folks are also going to want to get out on the water, and our swim beaches are going to be completely inundated,” said Townsend. “A lot of our campsites are going to be completely inundated, and everyone’s going to attempt to go swimming in a lot of these areas. They’re just not designated swimming areas, and they can be fairly dangerous.”
If people are getting out on the water, Townsend said he would encourage them to wear a life jacket.
“When the lake levels are high like this, there could be things submerged and not visible to the eye, and we just don’t want an unnecessary accident to happen,” said Townsend. “We encourage folks to find those swim beaches that are available. I don’t believe they’ll be able to find that on Table Rock Lake, but if they’re out swimming on the lake a life jacket, it is going to be highly recommended.”
Townsend added that social distancing also applies to anyone who is spending the weekend on a boat in the water.
“Sometimes you have these coves where people raft up, and they build these giant rafts of interconnected boats out in the coves and they’re having a real fantastic time. But this year, during this COVID-19 pandemic, we’re asking people to avoid doing that, because the unnecessary spread of the virus,” said Townsend. “You’re traveling from all over the United States, and they’re rafting up there on the lake, we could potentially be spreading this virus in what, we believe, is the safest place for people to be out recreating.”
For Memorial Day weekend, the forecast for the area is calling for multiple chances of rain. Townsend said that for anyone planning on camping, he would encourage them to remain aware of the forecast and the surrounding water levels.
“We’re going to get some rain this weekend, and once that rain water’s on the ground, we’re going to make sound decisions on whether we can keep some of the campgrounds that are currently open, open, or if they’re going to have to close because of rising waters,” said Townsend. “We’ll have teams in place 24/7 to notify people if the waters are rising and if we’ll have to evacuate those areas. But people need to keep that in mind as they lay their heads on the pillow at nighttime and they get a knock on the door if water levels are rising. We don’t necessarily foresee that, but we want folks to be prepared for that.”
Townsend added that the White River water system (Beaver, Table Rock, Taneycomo and Bull Shoals lakes) currently has more than 70% of its flood storage in use.
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