Field trip! Monday, we got out-of-town and drove down to Johnson’s Shut-ins State Park. The Shut-ins as it is know locally is not some Covid quarantine scheme, but a rock formation, a billion year-old rock formation that has been trying to imped the progress of the Black River or its predecessors all that while. These stubborn rocks shut in the river or constrict its flow into a narrow channel. The Shut-ins are easily Missouri’s best waterhole and in high summer one needs to get up extra early to get there before the park fills up, but in March, not so much. The parking lot was less than half full as we leisurely sauntered by. What’s more the Shut-ins were closed to swimming. That’s OK, we hadn’t planned on swimming anyway. We hadn’t even brought our swimsuits.
Red flags were out, warning of the river’s danger. Red means a river flow of more than 75 cubic feet per second. In summertime the flow rate shrinks to a fraction of that, really more of a trickle. Separate pools form, the rocks heat up in the summer sun and the throngs descend, but as you can see in the photos, no one is photo-bombing my shots. I was going to fly the drone, but a combination of too much wind and the availability of a terrestrial lookdown view made that idea moot. Downstream the Shut-ins end in the pictured turquoise pool. By summer, the water’s color is an algae green.
In years past, some people have leaped from this cliff. The park rangers discourage this practice, because of a shallow rock shelf at the base of the cliff. He who hesitates is lost. When we first moved to Missouri, the park had been closed. To much rowdy partying had led to violence and death, but it was soon reopened and we enjoyed visiting it over the years. Then in December of 2005, disaster struck. The dam broke on a hilltop reservoir that the power company used during the summer to generate power during peak need hours. Generating hydroelectric power for peak need times and then pumping and replenishing that water in the off hours. It had been a cold and very wet December and the earthen dam broke, showering both water and rocks down. The groundskeeper and his family were the only people in the park at the time and they were all swept away by the flood, but survived. As a reminder of that catastrophe, much of the park’s grounds are littered with car sized boulders that compose the debris field. Money from the settlement allowed the state to rebuild back better the park’s amenities, including a new boardwalk that we used yesterday to view the Shut-ins from.