High Waters and More Storms

It’s hard to believe I’ve been here at Sandy Lake for four weeks already. I’ve been keeping busy with the daily routine of being campground host. My job consists mostly of welcoming guests and answering questions. In my last post I mentioned we had several days of heavy rain, since then we’ve had some more days of heavy rainy and some strong winds. Here at the park we been luckier than much of the surrounding area, we had a couple of strong storms come through in the past couple weeks. Taking down a few large branches and many small ones. But the surrounding areas there are been flash floods due to heavy rain as much as 12 to 13 inches in 24 hours. Also on Thursday, July 21 storms came through the area knocking out power. I heard that on early Thursday morning close to 100,000 people in the area were out of power. But the power company worked fast and got many of the surrounding towns and cities power back within a few hours. We here at the park were out of power for around 36 hours, it went out around 3 AM Thursday morning and did not come back on until 3 o’clock Friday afternoon. The big problem with power being out in the park is all the water is supplied by a well here in the park. So we had no showers or flush toilets or power for air-conditioning and it was very hot and muggy for that day and a half. But that was certainly not bad compared to other people in the area. Some remote areas were out of power for several days.

With all the heavy rain another concern was the lake and river levels. The lake went up close to 2 feet, which caused concerns of local residents of potential flooding. We had a lot of people coming to see that the dams gates were able to be open fully and asking questions of what was expected for high crest levels on the lake. From what I was told in 2012, the months of May and June they had heavy flooding in the area. So this being fresh in the residence minds making them more concerned than usual.
There was a lot of flash flooding in northern parts Wisconsin, an hour or two drive from where I am at. Plus the river levels on the Mississippi River were quite high causing some flooding in neighboring communities. Over several days they were able to open the dam and maintain the lake level from going too high. But the river levels went up considerably as you’ll be able to see in the photos below that it went up 3 to 4 feet at the dam. Here’s a photo of the water in the river below the dam at normal levels, if you look to the left you can see the concrete wall and how much is exposed.


In this photo that was taken at the most high point when the dam was completely open the wall on the left completely underwater that gives you somewhat of an idea of how much the level went up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s a photo of the normal flow through the dam.


Here are some of the high flows.


The thing is the park rangers had to monitor both the lake and river levels and were not allowed to open the gates on the dam too fast with concerns of flooding downstream. On one day Tammy and Courtney were given permission to pull stop blocks on the log chute. Allowing more flow out of the lake and down the river. This is a manual process that they have to lift these blocks with cranes. Here’s a few photos of them getting set up and then as they lifted the blocks.20160713_13130420160713_13131420160713_132635 These are large wood blocks that fit in the slot to hold the water back you can see a bunch of them piled off to the right. 20160713_132634One other thing that is been going on over the last couple weeks is the alarm system on the office and shop it’s been going off in the middle of the night. There are motion sensors in the office and connecting shop and we believe a bat had gotten in the building and is setting off the alarm in the middle of the night. The problem is it’s not a silent alarm and there is a loud siren that goes off outside the building. I’m a light sleeper and it wakes me up and I can hear it a long ways away from the building. I feel sorry for the campers that are close because it’s got to be very loud for them. One night at around 3 o’clock in the morning while it was raining heavily, one of the campers came over to alert me and was wondering if I needed to call 911. Unfortunately there’s nothing I can do but, after 10 minutes the alarm resets itself and go silent. Most nights when it was going off it only did it one time. But the night when the guy came over it did go off a second time. If the alarm goes off more than once the alarm company called the park ranger on call. The thing is it’s about a 30 minute ride for any of them to come in and reset the alarm. We did some checking around the building and found places where bats could be getting in under roof eaves and did some patching to try to discourage them. There were also a couple lights that were not working properly and Mike the maintenance guy replace the bulbs and this all seemed to help. There were a couple nights that Tammy decided not to set the alarm, as she was working with the alarm company to come up with some kind of resolution. Things were good for about a week and yesterday I asked Tammy if she was not turning on the alarm but she said she was. And as things go last night after I talked to her the day before the alarm went off again.

With our discussion about the bats to try to discourage them from the building we talked about putting up some bat houses. I did some checking online and found some plans tweeted them a little and built the bat house as an experiment to see if we can discourage them from perching in or near the building. What you do when you build bat houses is you have to put little slits in the boards for them to climb on. And it has to be very dark on the inside of the house for the bats to stay in it during the day and also raise their young. There are all kinds of different plans out there from single to multiple slot houses. The one that made has three wood slots to accommodate several dozen bats. Below are some photos as I built and finish the bat house finally hanging it in a tree out behind the shop. Here are the boards as I made slits about every half-inch just a 16th of an inch deep in the boards so the bats have someplace to grab on.20160720_09262820160720_09263720160720_112109I assembled it and gave it a coat of dark stain, in northern climates you wanted to be dark colored to attract heat because the young bats needed to be from 80° to around 100° on the inside during the day to stay warm and healthy.20160720_13062220160720_130616Here are some photos after we hung up in the tree left to see how long it takes to attract some bats.


Well I’ve got a little less than a week left here and Sandy Lake and then on July 31 I’ll be moving about five hours south of here to Great River Bluffs State Park.
More the come on that later that’s it for now, best wishes to all.



  1. So glad you’re enjoying you first work camp job, looks like a nice place Tom and I will have to plan a trip up that way in the next few years! We are planning to visit you in your next campground next month, see you then.


  2. People, building stuff, cooking for friends…sounds like you are doing great! I am taking a bunch of free classes on
    Disaster Crisis Mgmt, thru the Salvation Army. Might be something you would also be interested in. Hope Maxine is doing okay…no recent photo!


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