Reporting John Lauritsen
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – One year ago, Minnesota’s northland experienced some of the worst flooding it had seen in years.
Heavy rain came so fast that roads washed away, creating large sinkholes. More than 3,000 homes were damaged.
At the Lake Superior Zoo, some of the barnyard animals died, and two seals and a polar bear briefly escaped.
One year later, Duluth and the surrounding areas are still rebuilding.
Jay Cooke State Park was forced to close from June until October because of damage across the park.
Among the casualties was Jay Cooke’s famous swinging bridge. It was overcome by the floodwaters of the St. Louis River. When it went, so did a piece of history. The bridge was on the National Historic Registry and was built in 1934.
“We would go to a site like this, or to the highway break, and we would just stand there silently. It was overwhelming to see this,” said park naturalist Kristine Hiller.
The damage could be found throughout the park, even on the highway that runs through it.
A part of Highway 210 was washed out by 750 million gallons of floodwater. The gap in the road will be mending with a new bridge.
All told, Jay Cooke suffered damage totaling more than $2 million, and it was forced to close for the summer. But the park is now officially on the comeback trail.
“Lots to do. Lots to see. It’s a great place,” said tourist Debi Morgan.
Morgan has been coming to Jay Cooke for years. She made the drive from St. Paul Wednesday with some friends and learned that the new swinging bridge will be ready by August.
“It’ll be interesting to see what it looks like when it’s done, and hopefully it will still swing,” Morgan said.
What’s already certain is that campsites are once again in high demand.
“They do have a ways to go, but they’ve done wonders. They’ve done a really good job,” said Janice Cihak, who made the five hour drive to Jay Cooke from Jackson.
Forty campers were evacuated during the day of the flood last year. But the campsites were not damaged and were re-opened by October.
The swinging bridge should be operational by August, and it will look a lot like it did in 1934. The bridge over Highway 210 should be ready by October.