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Upper Sioux Agency State Park worker Eric Iszler cuts an uprooted ash tree Friday in the park's upper picnic area. He is helping clean up the downed trees and limbs that have forced the park to delay the reopening of its campgrounds until this coming week. (Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny)

Storm damage delays reopening western Minnesota's Upper Sioux Agency State Park

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Storm damage delays reopening western Minnesota's Upper Sioux Agency State Park
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

UPPER SIOUX AGENCY STATE PARK -- Some time next week, the soft sounds of conversations around campfires will return to the Upper Sioux Agency State Park.


Until then, it's the steady buzz of chainsaws that reverberates through the park's wooded trails and camping areas.

Park workers are clearing away storm-damaged trees and limbs that block trails and roads and lie across some campsites in the 1,280-acre park along the Minnesota River south of Granite Falls.

The July 1 storm that caused a path of destruction in neighboring Renville County started its melee here, in some cases toppling and uprooting whole trees; in others, snapping off the tops or chopping their limbs, some left dangling 20 and 30 feet in the air.

Fortunately, no one was hurt and no buildings appear to have experienced any damage due to the storm, said Park Manager Terri Dinesen. The state shutdown meant the park was empty of campers when the storm hit.

The shutdown has also meant that Dinesen and her staff could not begin cleaning up in the wake of the storm until Thursday.

Dinesen reported that the storm felled dozens of trees, many of them oaks, ash, maples and cottonwoods, but it will be a while before she has an accurate assessment of the damage.

Dinesen and workers armed with chainsaws were venturing down the park's 18 miles of trails on Friday to see how many windfalls block the way.

The state Department of Natural Resources website indicates that the park will be reopened for day use this weekend but recommends visitors not use the trails. Dinesen said she hopes to know by the end of this weekend when the main and horse campgrounds can be reopened to overnight visitors.

The damage is scattered about the park, but Dinesen can say with certainty that it is not as extensive as that suffered in Camden State Park near Marshall. Her husband, Bill, is manager of Camden State Park and dealing with the cleanup there.

The storm damage is the latest in a series of challenges Mother Nature has offered at the Upper Sioux Agency State Park this year. Park staff devoted the first weeks of their season to repairing and cleaning up the flood damage to the main campground along the Yellow Medicine River. They also had their share of work cleaning up along trails and the Riverside camping area as the Minnesota River rose not once but three times over its banks in the park this season.

Renville County parks open, but cleanup continues

SACRED HEART -- The July 1 storm and the high waters of the Minnesota River have left their marks in Renville County's parks too.

All of the Renville County parks offering overnight camping are open for both camping and day use, but visitors will see piles of brush as cleanup efforts continue.

The July 1 storm inflicted damage to trees in all of the county parks, according to Barry Huisman, parks supervisor. Huisman and his crew have been able to open the park roads and trails, but there is still cleanup work under way.

The July 1 storm made roads impassable in Beaver Falls. Fortunately, one of the campers in the park that night was the owner of a tree clearing service, according to Mark Erickson, environment and community development director for the county. The chainsaw wielding Samaritan opened the way for his fellow campers to exit the park on the day after the storm.

High waters along the Minnesota River have kept two Renville County parks -- Mack Lake and Anderson Lake -- closed for the entire summer. They were closed for much of last season due to high water levels as well.

Tom Cherveny
Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
(320) 214-4335