The South Branch Root River flood over the west approach to the historic Forestville bridge. It is closed until an upcoming state inspection.
The South Branch Root River flood over the west approach to the historic Forestville bridge. It is closed until an upcoming state inspection.
The Forestville valley - both Minnesota Historical Society site and state park - took significant hits from the weekend flood.

Historic Forestville

Historic Forestville's staff spent most of Sunday and Monday fending off floodwaters of the South Branch of the Root River as record rainfall inundated the historic site inside Forestville State Park, located in a valley between Spring Valley, Preston and Wykoff. The popular tourist destination is closed until Friday.

As of late Monday afternoon, site director Sandy Scheevel and staff members had invested more than 30 hours in pumping rainwater from the Meighen store and house basement - fortunately, it was only rainwater and not river water, which could have gotten into the historic buildings' modern ductwork and caused more damage.

She cited seeing nearly 4.5 ft. of water coming into the Meighen basement, but that the staff's efforts were making a difference.

The river overtook the 1899 bridge leading into the site, making entry to the village from the west impossible. Scheevel stated that the river left a wide swath that "looked like the Grand Canyon," and that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) would have to inspect the century-old bridge before any traffic is allowed to cross it.

Fillmore County engineer John Grindeland told the county commissioners about the road as part of an update on countywide flooding during their meeting Tuesday morning. He noted the river went over the bridge for at least a little while, noting that similar circumstances have happened five or six times in the past 10 years. That causes concern over the substructure of the historic bridge.

The only other way to enter Historic Forestville is from the east on gravel roads from Preston, and historic site parking availability is questionable under those circumstances.

Historic Forestville had planned several sesquicentennial programs to celebrate the state's 150th birthday, and a busy tourist season overall. For more information on whether the programs will be held as scheduled, call Sandy Scheevel or John Grabko at (507) 765-2785.

Updates on the site's recovery are available at www.mnhs.org/Forestville

Forestville State Park

Mark White, manager of Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, said the cave system, trails and picnic pavilion took significant damage from the flooding.

The low water crossing to Mystery Cave and its visitor center was "heavily damaged," so until repaired, cave tours will be offered at just the Minnesota Caverns. White said road signs have been moved to send visitors to that entrance.

He noted Minnesota Caverns is a rustic tour with uneven trails that are not suitable for small children. Also, tours are offered a bit less frequently at the site.

The Mystery Cave tour system itself will need to have trails repaired, cleaned out and lights replaced.

Ridge trails in the park are fine, White stated, but the low-lying trails were damaged. For example, the Big Spring Trail is "wiped out." Trails along streams are closed. White also said that Lake Louise State Park near LeRoy - which is managed by Forestville staff - also had some trail damage.

The picnic pavilion along the South Branch Root River had around a foot and a half of water in it, leaving behind a lot of mud. White said crews are currently cleaning that up with a power washer, as well as disinfecting the well.

He noted there was little damage to campgrounds other than where a side stream backed up a little. White called it a testament to design, in keeping the campsites back off the stream, while creating other structures to handle the potential of high water.

White said this was the biggest flood since 1942, according to what he's heard from area old-timers.