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Flooding and detours reduce number of users on Missouri's Katy Trail

Flooding and detours reduce number of users on Missouri's Katy Trail

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JEFFERSON CITY — The summer of 2019 was a washout along Missouri’s Katy Trail.

With long stretches of the popular pedestrian and biking trail underwater because of flooding along the Missouri River, attendance figures showed an overall 12.7% drop in attendance.

From January to August, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources counted 186,824 users, down from 214,243 for the same time a year before.

The numbers were even worse in the middle section of the 237-mile trail, which was covered by floodwater. According to a DNR tally of users between Portland and Boonville, there was a 37% decrease.

“Certainly, our numbers were down all summer,” Melanie Smith, Katy Trail coordinator.

Melissa Stevens, who operates the Doll House Bed and Breakfast in Rhineland, said the business lost $6,000 in May and June due to cancellations from groups that had planned to ride the entire length of the trail.

“It definitely impacted us. We have a lot of people that come from out of state who stayed away this year,” said Stevens, who also brings in business from people visiting nearby Hermann.

While most of the 12-foot-wide, crushed limestone trail has reopened after water began to recede in July, there are at least nine sections of the trail that are closed due to flood damage, rock slides or bridge replacement work.

Flooding has closed the eastern terminus of the trail at the Machens trailhead to the St. Charles trailhead, with no recommended detour.

Two bridge replacement projects near Augusta and Matson have closed the trail. But, there are detours around those gaps.

A section west of Jefferson City and south of Columbia has been particularly vexing. With the trail running close to the river, flooding scoured away much of the trail and also left a thick blanket of sand in places.

“In some areas, bicycle riders may need to carry their bicycles,” DNR cautions. “Trail users are strongly recommended to use bicycles with aggressive tread. Not recommended for thin street tires.”

A section west of Rocheport also has been closed while the trail is being repaired. Cyclists wanting to detour around the closure are faced with the prospect of getting on a busy road with no shoulders where cars are traveling over 50 miles per hour.

Additional flooding is not making repairs easy.

Near Cooper’s Landing, water has flooded Easley River Road, which runs parallel to the trail. To accommodate local residents, the trail has been opened to cars and trucks.

“Trail users should proceed with caution,” the state says.

The return of flooding is expected to last into December, according to the National Weather Service.

Although business at the Doll House has picked up, Stevens said, it remains below normal levels.

“It’s not near what it should be,” she said.

In all, there are 26 trailhead stations along the trail, which had been a railroad line before it was abandoned due to repeated flooding.

Workers continue to regrade the pathway, remove debris and patch holes.

“The trail is definitely not in perfect condition,” said Smith. “We are making progress.”

Highlights of flooding coverage during the spring and summer 2019

Even before the rivers started rising above flood levels during the spring of 2019, St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporters were covering impacts of flooding rivers in the St. Louis area.

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