By Esme Murphy

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The Department of Natural Resources estimates half a million people have not been able to visit Fort Snelling State Park during its six-month closure.

The park sits at the confluence of two of our nations greatest rivers — the Minnesota and the Mississippi — so it’s prone to flooding, but nothing like what we experienced last spring.

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In March, flood waters took out trails, the park’s water line and even some structures. And unlike past years, the waters kept coming.

“It’s been a long, challenging summer with repeated rain events. We have had, since February, one of the wettest years in over 150 years of record-keeping,” Nick Bartels, assistant manager of the park said.

The main fishing pier was one of the structures that was badly damaged and had to be rebuilt.

“I love it; it’s great. I wish the fish were biting, but it’s back open — that is what is important,” park visitor William Crosby said.

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During the six-month closure, the park lost out on more than $200,000 in revenue, with most of it in park entrance fees. Drive through the park, and you can see the abrupt change to new pavement that had to be laid down. Repaving flood-damaged roads cost about $90,000. Repairing the park’s water main was another $80,000.

Some park areas still have porta-potties. But for visitors like Jenny Brandt it’s all good.

“I am so excited. It has just been a long summer without it,” Brandt said.

The DNR says popular fall events like fall color tours will be ready to go, and so will winter events like cross country skiing and fat tire biking.

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For more information about the park and its events, click here.

Esme Murphy