Lake Ray Roberts is holding floodwaters for the second time this year, forcing many of the state park’s facilities to close.
Mark Stewart, superintendent of the park’s Isle du Bois Unit, said the flooding came just as park staff had completed much of the cleanup from record lake levels in May that caused washouts and zebra mussels to accumulate on trees and picnic tables.
“If it goes down fairly quickly, we shouldn’t have a problem with zebra mussels because they won’t be under water long enough,” Stewart said. “As far as campsites, we’re definitely going to have to go back in and clean those up again, and until the water goes down we won’t know how bad the damage is as far as the repairs that will need to be done.”
Ray Roberts has risen more than 5 feet since rain began falling late on Nov. 26, hitting 637.92 feet above sea level on Wednesday. Normal elevation is 632.5.
Levels continued to inch up as drainage in the Trinity River Basin trickled in.
“Before the rain, we were still about a foot over before this last weekend,” Stewart said.
The park is open, but several campgrounds at the Isle du Bois Unit were closed due to high water in the camping areas and over portions of some roads and electrical boxes. In addition, the fishing pier and the swim beach were under water.
The Greenbelt trail from FM 428 to FM 455 has been closed since May. The closure now includes the equestrian trail from Jordan Park. The only boat ramp open on the entire lake is at Isle du Bois.
The lake will remain high until the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opens the floodgates. Flooding downstream in the Trinity River and at Lake Lewisville must subside before water at Ray Roberts can be released, Stewart said.
On Wednesday, the Corps was releasing 374 cubic feet per second. More than 2,000 cfs can be released when the floodgates are wide open.
“It’s a little disheartening as far as getting everything cleaned up and ready to go and have it go back under water, but at the same time, that’s Mother Nature and we’ve got to live with what we’ve got,” Stewart said.
“We’re glad to have the water. I’d rather be a little over now versus being 10 feet low in a drought.”
Stewart does not expect this flood to be as damaging due to the timing. The spring flooding affected the park’s peak season for visitors — the entire park was closed all summer — but the losses won’t seem as dramatic in the cooler season.
“The fact that we’re going into our winter time means it’s not going to impact our revenue – not like it did this summer,” Stewart said.