Reporting Holly Wagner
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday that Jay Cooke State Park has been closed indefinitely and camping and lodging reservations have been canceled through October.
The park, which is about 10 miles south and west of Duluth, was devastated by recent flood waters. The DNR said the park will remain closed because Highway 210 in the area is closed due to severe flooding damage.
Courtland Nelson, of the DNR, said the storm was one of “epic proportions.”
The highway provides the only access into the park and is currently impassable because of mudslides have washed out large sections of road. One of the most eye-popping gaps is 300-feet wide and 100-feet deep.
The park also sustained damage to trails, according to Nelson.
“There’s a whole network of trails…we can’t get to now,” he said.
The park’s historic swinging bridge that connected two sections of the park was torn apart. Built in the 1930s, its pillars are still standing.
“To see the photos of this and the high watermarks was just beyond imagination,” Nelson said. “I couldn’t have ever conceived that that kind of volume, in this gorge, could have come down.”
He said the water, at its highest, was three or four feet over the bridge’s deck.
Though the park is closed, conservation officers have caught people trying to kayak down the river and get on the trails, according to Lt. Mike Scott, a DNR conservation officer.
“People that get into the park, if there is an emergency that arises, you can see how difficult it’s gonna be for us to get in here to provide service for either rescue or…recovery,” he said.
Officials announced that reservations have been canceled through Oct. 31, and no reservations for the park will be taken until further notice.
DNR officials say they anticipate losing about $175,000 in camping and lodging revenue while the park is closed. Those who have made reservations and had them canceled will receive full refunds.
Officials said they usually get about 302,000 visitors per year. The park’s bridge over the St. Louis River suffered severe damage, the park’s trail system suffered damage and the water and sewer service have not yet been restored.