breach of December 14, 2005
Early that morning, the park was assaulted with over one billion
gallons of water rushing from the broken reservoir atop Profitt
Mountain, through the campground and shut-ins and down the East
Fork of the Black River. This onslaught of water left behind
devastation in the form of enormous boulders, several feet of
sand and clay and broken and uprooted trees piled up to 15-feet
high on the few trees left standing in the 52-site camping area
and fen. The campground was destroyed, filled with concrete
and rebar from the broken reservoir. Most of the trees and buildings
were gone, replaced by boulders and sand that were carried with
the water. Amazingly, one building in the campground-a basic
vault toilet-was spared from the flood’s force, losing
only its rear wall. The fixtures, rolls of toilet paper, and
even a flypaper strip were left intact, and this toilet now
represents two distinct periods in the park’s history.
Though the destruction seemed overwhelming, restoration soon
began. Mangled trees were mulched in a 50-foot-long tub grinder
to form piles of mulch as deep as 15 feet. Truckloads upon truckloads
of sand and sediment were removed. Once cleared, native grasses
and saplings were planted and new local topsoil was brought
in to replace what had been washed away. Wetland ecologists
and soil biologists were brought in to determine how to restore
the precious, delicate fen. The sand and sediment covering this
fragile area was several feet deep in places and was mostly
removed using a large, industrial vacuum, though the most sensitive
areas could withstand the use of only shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows
to uncover the buried vegetation. This area had to be cleared
by spring, or the buried plants would die. The recovery and
reestablishment of the fen was the park’s first major
The hard, volcanic rocks that make up the shut-ins were virtually
unscathed, though some of its potholes and gorges were filled
with boulders, gravel, concrete and rebar, making swimming temporarily
unsafe. The boardwalk to the shut-ins was rebuilt, and the park
opened for limited day-use in May 2006. Visitors could see the
path of destruction and the on-going restoration, but were not
allowed to swim, or explore the rocks of the shut-ins. The immense
recovery effort continued throughout that summer and winter,
and on through the spring of 2007. On July 2, 2007, visitors
were again allowed to enjoy the park’s most popular feature,
the rocks for which it was named, and the newly restored river
that ran over and among them.
This past September, the park closed again to continue restoration
and development. The new entrance from Highway N will boast
a boulevard road system leading to the new multi-story park
Office, Store and Interpretation and Information Center located
on a sloping high point with views of both the Scour Channel
and park valley. From the boulevard, dispersed parking areas
will be available to access the abundance of day-use areas including
playgrounds, picnic areas and several different themed trails.
There will be areas for fishing and wading along the river,
as well as un-programmed, free play spaces. The Ozark Trail
will be rerouted through the park and will include a backpack
The Scour Channel is such a unique feature it may rival the
shut-ins for the most popular area of the park. There will be
access to the boulder field from the park as well as from a
separate entrance in Highway N which will provide an overlook
of, and access to, the Scour Channel so visitors may enjoy this
incomparable aspect of the flood. The campground is being relocated
outside of the flood plain to the Goggins Mountain valley, approximately
a mile from the park’s main entrance. A shuttle system
is expected to be used to circulate visitors from the campground
to the Scour Channel Overlook, the park Office and Store and
Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park has long been one of
Missouri’s most popular state parks, entertaining nearly
250,000 visitors a year. For 2008, there will be swimming
in the shut-ins from Memorial Day Weekend until Labor Day Weekend
and the rest of the park will remain closed for redevelopment.
The park is expected to be fully open and operational sometime
in 2009, better than ever, providing satisfaction to visitors
with an array of interests-from camping and swimming, to hiking,
birding and studying the variety of plant life and the exceptional
rock formations. For updates on the redevelopment of Johnson's
Shut-ins, please see
the Department of Natural Resources page on the park's redevlopment.
by Mary Eakins Bullis
Directions: Highway 21 to Highway "N" (Middlebrook,
Flood of interest
Taum Sauk disaster reveals geological find at Johnson's Shut-ins
October 20, 2008 in the Columbia Tribune
LESTERVILLE (AP) - The raging flood from a December 2005
breach in the Taum Sauk reservoir not only ripped trees and
soil from the side of Proffit Mountain, it sliced through
centuries of time.
The 1.3 billion gallons of water stripped all the dirt in
its path, revealing a literal blast from the past: Taum Sauk
rhyolite rock created 1.4 billion years old when volcanoes
exploded to create the St. Francois Mountains.
of the large bed of rhyolite is a silver lining in the
tragedy that injured the ranger’s family,
destroyed their home and a state campground and permanently
changed the face of Johnson’s Shut-ins State Park.
The scour channel also holds rocks from at least three other
geological eras as well as a 530-million-year-old beach near
the top of the mountain.
"We have 900 million years of the Earth’s history
right here," said Cheryl Seeger, geologist for the Missouri
Department of Natural Resources.
use radiometric dating to determine the age of rocks, said
Joe Gillman, DNR division director. "That is
a technique that is based on naturally occurring radioactive
isotopes in the rock," he explained. "We know what the half-life
of radioactive isotopes is. We can age-date the rock based
on how much of the radioactive isotope has decayed over time."
The discovery has drawn attention from geologists around
the world who are hoping to get a close look at the scour
channel. The upper half is owned by Ameren. DNR hopes to
make its half of the channel available to the public next
Safety concerns are one reason the scour channel is off-limits.
Parts of the rock-strewn channel are treacherous to walk
reason is the educational value, especially to geologists. "It’s
a major area of interest," Seeger said. "We’re uncovering
an ancient mountain range."
It was a cloudy, rainy summer morning when Seeger arrived
to escort a reporter and Parks Department employees Rose
Pollard, Pamela Kugel-Rolls and Hannah Memhardt on a tour
of the scour channel.
The bottom of the channel slopes almost imperceptibly at
first, then steadily rises until mid-channel, where the slope
sharply steepens. Small rocks lay across the lower stretch,
but the rocks grow larger and cover the channel as the trail
begins to climb.
"The water came down the steeper slope very fast, and when
it hit the flatter valley floor, it immediately began digging
out and scouring a big hole," Seeger said. "Then as the water
moved past that point, it started slowing just enough that
it started dropping a lot of the material that it had been
carrying down the hillside."
Wildflowers and other plants now grow throughout the lower
third of the channel. Most of the irregularly shaped rocks
are baseball size or smaller, and walking is easy.
Around the bend, the channel slopes upward. Here, walking
is more difficult among the angular, basketball-sized rocks.
Seeger stopped to pick up samples of rock, including rhyolite,
dolomite, granite, sandstone and chert. Many of the rocks
came from inside the reservoir walls, carried down by the
water after it knocked down a 656-foot section of the dam.
pointed to a series of tiny ridges on a section of harder
rock. "These were created by waves from a huge saltwater
sea that lapped the shore," she said. "This was a beach about
530 million years ago."
The entire St. Francois Mountain range, once higher than
the Rocky Mountains, eventually was covered by sea. That
was long before the glaciers melted, fish swam in the sea
or dinosaurs roamed the Earth, she explained.
1.5 billion years ago, "caldera" volcanoes spewed
forth hot gases and materials from under the Earth, creating
mountains. Eruptions left holes underground, which eventually
caused the mountains to collapse. This pattern continued
for centuries. Unlike Hawaiian volcanoes that spew liquid
lava, calderas erupt explosively. "Think Mount St. Helens,
only huge," Seeger said. "If you think of St. Helens’ " eruption "as
the size of an espresso cup, Yellowstone was a 50-gallon
bag and ours was a 30-gallon bag."