By Brent Frazee
OK, Mother Nature, you win.
I’m tired of fighting you. Your floods, tornadoes, high wind, snow and bitter cold are starting to wear on me.
When I was much younger, I could deal with the elements. In many cases, I looked at it as a challenge.
Now? Not so much.
I am tired of the non-stop rain and the rollercoaster temperatures in spring. Planning a fishing trip is like spinning a roulette wheel. You pick a date and just hope that Mother Nature is in a good mood that day.
Maybe I have selective memory, but I don’t remember spring being so temperamental in my youth. There would be a steady progression from winter to some beautiful, sun-kissed days when a person who loves the outdoors was just happy to be alive.
For sure, those days still exist, but with plenty of miserable ones mixed in. Flooding has become a consistent part of spring the past few years and it’s getting real old.
I can’t remember a year like this one. First, the Missouri River spilled out of its banks early after a period of heavy rain and snowmelt, and left Nebraska looking like one giant lake. Now, after a May of non-stop rain, the fishing season has practically ground to a halt in Kansas.
High water has closed boat ramps, flooded campgrounds and left hiking trails a muddy mess at popular reservoirs such as Tuttle Creek, John Redmond, Perry, and Milford.
How bad is it? Perry Lake is 29 feet high and the water has gobbled up almost 97 percent of the reservoir’s flood storage, causing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to start making large releases even though they likely will cause downstream flooding on the already-high Missouri River.
Tuttle Creek, with its large drainage area bringing large inflows to the reservoir, is an unbelievable 58 feet above normal pool. And John Redmond is 27 feet high, despite large-scale releases into the Neosho River.
In fact, very few reservoirs across Kansas have been spared by the flooding.
But it’s not just Kansas. In Missouri, Truman Lake is bulging with water, 30 feet above normal. And reservoirs such as Pomme de Terre, Stockton and Mark Twain also are high and rising.
I was around in 1993, the year of the Great Flood, but I can’t remember the devastation being so widespread.
I watch in awe as videos on Facebook show the torrent of water being released from reservoirs such as Perry and John Redmond. For me, the grave realities of the flooding strike close to home. In my hometown of Parkville, Mo., the Missouri River has twice spilled out of its banks, flooding our city park and tearing away a bridge leading into the recreation area.
I also am saddened when I talk to friends who have lost a season of income as a result of the floods. Friends who are guides tell me that they have lost dozens of trips due to the high water.
“This is the time of the year that we look forward to,” one friend told me. “This is when the fish are hitting, and this is when people hire guides.
“But with the high water, everyone is canceling. And there’s no telling how long it will take for the water to go down.
“It’s just a mess.”
It’s hard to talk about recreation when residents watch their river towns destroyed and farmers and ranchers lose their livelihood.
Those are the tragedies that make the headlines. But I feel for the people involved in outdoor recreation, too.
From the owners of marinas and bait shops to the guides and motel and restaurant owners in lake communities, this has been a spring to forget.
When years like this come around, some people are always quick to assess blame. Some blame climate change, saying these extremes are becoming more common. Others criticize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for allowing reservoirs to get this high.
As for the former argument, I really can’t say. I’m not a climate change denier, yet I am also not convinced that freakish years such as this one are the result of some long-term abuse of our environment.
As for the latter accusation, I disagree. The reservoirs are being managed exactly as they should – to control flooding. If the holding basins weren’t there, the flooding this spring would have been of epic proportions.
So, what’s the answer? I don’t know if there is one other than to pray for dry, sunny days and hope that springs like 2019 never occur again.
Photo: Large water releases from flooded reservoirs such as John Redmond have become a sign of spring in Kansas.