Flooding at Hillsdale Lake puts a damper on the unofficial start to summer

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HILLSDALE, Kan. -- Memorial Day Weekend marks the first holiday after school's out, and a lot of folks like to head to the lake.

But several bodies of water in Kansas are breaching their banks, closing campgrounds and boat ramps. People are being turned away at Hillsdale Lake because of the record high water.

Opal Tayari is usually the gatehouse greeter. But Saturday she was the bearer of bad news.

"Alright y'all, I am so sorry," Tayari said to a vehicle trying to enter Hillside Lake Campgrounds. "I'm not allowed to let anybody past the gatehouse."

She told numerous people they can't take Sea-Doos and boats out on Hillside Lake, and had to "ruin their weekend," Tayari said.

She said it also ruined a couple unhappy campers' unofficial start to summer.

"Everybody else is pretty nice about it," Tayari said.  "They're like, 'Teah, it's not really your fault. It's Mother Nature."

Now, the campground sites sit empty. Benches are tied off to trees and the beach is under water. State Park officials have had it closed this spring, but were hoping to have it open this weekend.

"It's going to be a Memorial Day to forget," said RJ Harms, project manager for the Army Corps of Engineers at Hillsdale Lake.

Currently, the lake is 12 feet high, which is about 90% of the flood pool there, according to Harms.

"We won't be able to make any releases until the Missouri River drops and we have some space for all the water we have to let out," Harms said.

The public is not allowed to access boat ramps that are submerged in water. However, if you have a boat at the marina, you're allowed to take it out on the water.

Officials urge you to use extreme caution.

"There's a lot of debris in the lake, drift wood in the lake. Other trash can be in the lake and it usually floats right below the water surface," Harms said. "So it's hard to see."

Robin Cooper is a slip holder at Hillsdale. She's leaving her boat docked.

"There's stuff floating around everywhere. It's everywhere!" Cooper said. "I've never seen it like this, so we're just going to hang out with friends and stay safe."

Over on the campgrounds, Tayari, herself, isn't so lucky.

"It's just kind of a sad thing," Tayari said, "because I've had to move my camper out of the park as well."

They hope to have the park back open by the Fourth of July.

As for other lakes on the Kansas side, Harms said the boat ramps at Lake Perry and Clinton are closed, and campground sites at Clinton are full this weekend.

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