Friday's Flooded Family Reunion

I like alliteration, especially when I can use it in a title like this one: Friday's Flooded Family Reunion. Every Summer my wife's side of the family has a big reunion in Spanish Fork at the Spanish Fork River Park a few miles up US-6. The park sits directly inside of the Pole Creek Fire burn scar from last year. The Pole Creek Fire burned nearly 100,000 thousand acres of land in the canyon, but jumped the highway and spared the park.

Friday afternoon, before we left for the reunion, a large thunderstorm passed through southern Utah County drenching the canyon and the burn scar. When my wife Lara and I reached the park and the campsites, we both noticed how full and fast the river was flowing. But it was still inside its banks. The park was a little flooded from the thunderstorm and the kids were riding bikes through the water, jumping and splashing in puddles. You know, just being kids.

After about an hour, after we had popped the top on our Vanagon, the water started to trickle into camp. It started out slow and would cross the campsites and the road, then drain back into the river. Another 10-ish minutes go by and Lara points out the water has crept up to the parking lot, and past the Vanagon.


Ok, time to move over a couple of spaces closer to the middle of the parking lot. After moving the van I had my first thought of 'I wonder if we should move up and out of the park just in case. Cause it doesn't seem like this water is slowing down any time soon.' More time passes and the park continues to flood more and more.

We're now at a point where people parked on the lower ends of the campgrounds are starting to pack up their gear and pull their campers out. Water on the edges of the camp site near the river is about knee high and the water level in the parking lot it's a lot lower.


We were first parked on the other side of that Chrysler. I'm sure glad I moved it when I did. With more people packing up and pulling out I'm starting to get a little concerned. The water has turned the parking lot into an island, and watching pickup trucks leave the park the water is up to the running boards. I'm in an old 2-wheel-drive van. I'm safe here in the parking lot, but if the water continues to climb we're screwed. I don't want to get stuck trying to drive out and end up like the guy in the van from Dante's Peak when the lahars wash out the bridge.


Alright, time to go see exactly how deep the water is at the exit. I hop out of the van, the water in the parking lot isn't even ankle high. At the exit the water is significantly higher, up to my knee. Great!

I trudge my way back to the van and 'measure' the water mark on my leg against the van to see if we'd even stand a chance trying to leave. Ehhh... Maybe. The water would probably touch the bottom of the engine, and the air cleaner is on top. We could, but I don't want to try it. Instead I grab my tow rope, because I was Boy Scout once and I'm always prepared, and wait to see if we can get towed out later.


Thankfully, THANKFULLY, the water began to recede after I got back to the Vanagon. The park was completely flooded and covered in thick mud. A Sheriff's Deputy who had been "supervising" the campsite while we were trying to leave, pulls the plug and closes the campground in case anyone wanted to try and stay. "It's better to leave now than at 3:00 am if another deluge of water comes down," he tells us.

The water recedes enough for us to drive out, and we meet up with those who left earlier at the Spanish Fork Fairgrounds.

At the fairgrounds we learned what caused the river to spill and flood the campsite. Further up US-6 and the canyon, on US-89 near Birdseye, the same thunderstorm created a flash flood and mud flow that buried the road and clogged up the river with debris. When they cleared the debris in the river, that sent all the excess water downstream. Downstream to where we were at.

I'm glad the flooding wasn't so severe we needed rescuing and I'm incredibly happy no one in our family was hurt. Because it could have turned tragic very easily.



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