HEARTLAND FLOOD: DeSoto Wildlife Refuge is back in business

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MISSOURI VALLEY, Iowa (WOWT) -- This year’s flooding has done a lot to disrupt recreation along the Missouri River. It’s left popular spots closed but one favorite is back up and running in Missouri Valley.

Sarah Foster, of Council Bluffs, was with her son Colton and friend Kate Esterling visiting the DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge Thursday.

Sarah said, “It’s an oasis to get away from everything in the city and just come out here be able to relax.”

But this year there aren’t as many places for Sarah to relax. A survey of parks along the river is discouraging. Haworth Park in Bellevue is underwater and closed, as is NP Dodge park in Omaha.

In Council Bluffs, Tom Hanafan Park is closed. Same story at Big Lake Park.

The Narrows north of Council Bluffs has a sign out front saying it‘s “out of service until next spring.”

It’s been very nearly the same story for DeSoto. The refuge has been closed off and on for more than three months. But for now it’s back open.

DeSoto’s Peter Rea said, “You know it feels great to be back open, you know? Part of our job is working here not only for the wildlife but we’re here for people to come and enjoy. “

The refuge isn’t completely up to speed yet. The boat docks are out of service but people can still fish off the bank. Repairs are being made to trails. There’s a lot for visitors to do.

Rea said, “Obviously you can get to our visitors center which houses the Bertrand Museum along with a lot of different wildlife displays. You can also drive in all the way to our Southgate Recreation Area and then up to what we call our Bobstall Wildlife Overlook which actually looks out to an eagles nest.”

Being back up and running has both staff and visitors pleased.

Foster said, “When it was closed it was sad because you couldn’t get away from all the hustle and bustle and out here you can just get away from it and just be calm and relaxed and be one with nature I guess.”

Wilson Island Recreation Area next to DeSoto remains closed as does Boyer Chute near Fort Calhoun.