By MIKE CORN
With regrets to author Charles Dickens, the Memorial Day camping season was the best of times as well as the worst of times.
Anyone who ventured outside Monday -- when winds howled at speeds of up to 50 mph -- understands the worst of times. So do the folks who sought to camp at either Glen Elder or Lovewell state parks, where water levels were pushed sharply higher by heavy rains.
Those lakes again are seeing a boost in water levels thanks to heavy rain Wednesday in areas that drain directly into the lakes. Prior to the heavy rains, both Lovewell and Glen Elder -- adjoining Waconda Reservoir -- were about 5 feet above normal.
Waconda's water level, according to Troy Brown, jumped nearly a foot in the 12 hours following Wednesday's storms. "Which is a huge, huge amount of water," said Brown, regional parks supervisor for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
Based on data from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, that foot of water would be nearly 800 million gallons of water. Another 100 million gallons of water was released into the Solomon River over the same 24-hour period.
Waconda has more than 12,000 surface acres of water.
Absent the high winds Monday and the struggle with high water, Brown declared the Memorial Day Weekend a success for the district parks.
The high winds -- even the forecast for the high winds -- created some problems.
"They packed up and headed out before it got there," Brown said of the forecast for high winds. "Our Monday day use really slacked off."
With the higher water levels already causing problems at Glen Elder and Lovewell, Brown is keeping a close watch on conditions there as a result of Wednesday's storms.
"All these rains last night are going to increase problems for Glen Elder and Lovewell," he said.
Even though Lovewell is a relatively small lake, with only 3,500 acres of water, its one of the busiest parks in the district.
Residents of northern Kansas use the lake, as well as a lot of people from Nebraska, he said.
That's not a surprise, he said, because Kansas lakes are "a lot better" than the parks in Nebraska.
Glen Elder has been busy, in part, because the fishing has been phenomenal, Brown said.
After visiting the lake on May 26, he said about 90 percent of the vehicles parked in the boat ramp area were from Nebraska.
The high water has a big effect on parks, Brown said, because it covers up primitive camping areas.
"Now, we're starting to have some problems with the roads," he said, even expecting some of the paved roads to be undercut by the high water.
"It's a good thing when you have full reservoirs," Brown said, but not so much when the waters get too high.
Not all the lakes in the region have ample water, as Cedar Bluff and Sebelius both remain low.
"We'd love to pipe that directly to Cedar Bluff," Brown said of the excess water.