Redneck Entertainment Idea #519: Watching water trickle over the Lake Wappapello emergency spillway

Feature written by James Baughn on Sunday, May 19, 2002

from the drip-drip-drip dept.

WAPPAPELLO, MO -- Sick of watching lame TV specials about shows from 30 years ago? Tired of wasting your evening outside watching your bug zapper zap bugs? Bored of going to the local tavern and getting into a brawl? We here at The Cape Rock have the perfect idea for something completely different: watching water flow.

Trust us, this is much more exciting than watching grass grow. Only twice since Lake Wappapello was built in 1941 has the emergency spillway had water flowing over it -- once in 1945, and once this morning!

[Overview of lake flooding]
View from the sound end of the spillway Saturday afternoon when the water completely covered the parking lot and was slowly rising towards the top of the emergency spillway.
Spectators from all over lined up at the overlooks above the spillway hoping to see the flood waters break through. Even though almost all of the boat ramps are washed out, even though everything on the local calendar of events is postponed, and even though the fishing is terrible, this was one of the busiest tourist weekends in Wappapello history.

[Closeup of trickle over spillway]
A small amount of water trickled through cracks in the spillway and sandbags Sunday morning just after the crest, but more had found its way over the wall earlier during the night
The US Army Corps of Engineers, however, spoiled everyone's fun by placing sandbags at the top of the spillway. The lake crested Sunday morning at 395.13 feet above sea level, placing it 4.68 inches above the top of the concrete levee, but not even close to the top of the sandbags. Just enough water trickled through the sandbags and over the wall to excite the hordes of onlookers, but not enough to cause the Corps engineers to start panicking.

Even without the catastrophic flood that everyone was hoping for (except Corps engineers), the weekend had a certain carnival atmosphere. Where else would ordinary people be excited enough to stand for hours in record low temperatures watching a tiny amount of water trickle over a concrete wall? Where else would people pray for an unexpected rain shower, a strong gust of wind, or a small earthquake -- anything to cause the sandbags to topple over? Where else would people bring lawn chairs and calculators so they could sit and watch a body of water move at near glacial slowness while crunching numbers to figure out how many inches above the spillway the forecasted crest would be?

And then -- as if watching rivulets of water run down a concrete wall by moonlight isn't enough excitement already -- the spectators were treated Saturday evening to a car wreck on Highway T. What more could you ask for in weekend Redneck entertainment?