LESTERVILLE — Nearly five years after Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park was virtually destroyed by a sudden flood resulting from a reservoir breach, the campground for the popular park is reopening.
The new campground opens Friday in the southeast Missouri park that features some of the nation's oldest exposed rocks surrounded by swift-flowing waters in a series of gorges, or "shut-ins." An official groundbreaking ceremony is May 22.
"We wanted a soft opening for the campground," Susan Holst of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' parks division told the Park Hills Daily Journal. "I think a lot of people are interested in seeing what the new campground has to offer."
The new campground site is about a mile from the original one destroyed on Dec. 14, 2005, in the breach of AmerenUE's nearby Taum Sauk reservoir. The park superintendent, his wife and their three children were swept out of their home but survived.
St. Louis-based Ameren Corp. agreed to a $180 million settlement with the state. Ameren announced last month that the rebuilding of the reservoir is nearly complete and the power plant is expected to return to operation by summer.
The flood changed the landscape of the park, even altered the section of river that flows through it. The Department of Natural Resources and Ameren fixed the damage and reconstructed sections of the park with the help of hundreds of volunteers.
The campground itself was in a valley before the flood, but it now sits on a mountain. Swimming and picnic areas have already reopened.
The new camping area includes 79 sites. There are six cabins and a special-use camping area for groups.
A new educational center is a two-story, 10,000-square-foot building that includes exhibits about the geology, natural and cultural history of the park and the mountainous area around it.