Rain follows a busy Labor Day weekend for camping at area lakes

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

CEDAR BLUFF STATE PARK -- It wasn't the best Labor Day camping weekend on record, but the weather was ideal for everyone who was there.

And then the rains started falling, dumping heavy rain along the Smoky Hill River feeding into Cedar Bluff.

Rains in excess of 5 inches were relatively common in Logan and Gove counties, but two nights of more than 3 inches of rain fell along the Smoky Hill River in Trego County.

That rain pushed the Smoky Hill River out of its banks, but caused few flooding problems.

The lake isn't filling up overnight, but the water level has climbed by about a foot since the water started flowing in. Water filled the river channel at the upper end of the lake.

Over the Labor Day weekend, said Chris Smith, Cedar Bluff park manager for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, only a few camping spots with utilities remained open.

But that's not so unusual.

Cedar Bluff, he said, varies from year to year as to which holiday is the peak camping period.

"Some years Labor Day is our biggest day of the year," he said.

But Memorial Day and the Fourth of July are close competitors.

This year, Labor Day slipped to the bottom of the top three.

"It was probably third," he said of how busy the camping season was over the past weekend.

Memorial Day came in first, with the Fourth of July close behind.

Elsewhere, Webster State Park exhibited the greatest turnaround, according to regional parks supervisor Troy Brown.

Over the past year, Webster filled with water, while other lakes, such as Cedar Bluff have not. More than 5,000 people were on hand.

Cedar Bluff had about 6,800 visitors, while Prairie Dog State Park near Norton had about 8,000 visitors. Scott State Lake also had about 5,000 visitors.

Brown said only a few issues required assistance from law enforcement, including a chase at Webster.

Despite the larger than normal crowd, Smith said there were no problems.

"It was a terrific crowd," he said. "We had no law enforcement issues. It was a family oriented crowd, with lots of kids. It was a great weekend."

While Labor Day is generally considered the end of the camping season, that's not always the case at Cedar Bluff.

"It starts to taper off after Labor Day," he said.

Water is generally turned off about Oct. 15.

"That's usually the end of camping season," Smith said.

Even then, hunters will rent lodges at the park, or bring in self-contained campers for the upcoming hunting seasons.