Welcome to Missouri, the Show Me The Destruction State.
Starting with the breach of the Taum Sauk Reservoir in 2005, the state has experienced a ridiculous number of disasters that have reshaped the landscape.
This spring, the New Madrid Floodway was turned into the South Dakota badlands. Likewise, Lake Wappapello is now home to a huge canyon below the emergency spillway.
Despite the destruction, there is a silver lining. In the case of the Taum Sauk failure, Johnsons Shut-ins State Park was able to turn the trail of destruction into a tourist attraction by building an interpretive trail through the scour channel.
Lake Wappapello could offer the same thing. Indeed, now that Highway T has been temporarily rebuilt below the spillway, the area is already filled with rubberneckers and tourists wanting to see the aftermath.
When I visited recently, I saw drivers stopping on the temporary bypass to take snapshots from within the scour channel. A better idea is to park by the fish cleaning station, cross the road, and walk to a makeshift viewing area.
From here, it's possible to look uphill toward the emergency spillway.
In the other direction, huge boulders have filled the outlet below the spillway.
Next, I drove to the picnic shelter at the south end of the spillway. This overlook provides a bird's eye view looking down the canyon.
Meanwhile, the land next to the visitor's center on the north end of the spillway also provides an excellent view of the scene.
Before the flood, most of the concrete berm at the emergency spillway was covered in dirt, but now it's exposed.
I walked down the hill to see the abandoned stretch of Highway T, the proverbial Road to Nowhere.
Just as Highway T was sliced in two, the access road to the boat ramp was also wiped out. A temporary road has been constructed next to the visitor's center to provide access to the ramp. As a bonus, the boater's parking lot is a convenient spot to view the spillway from yet another angle.
I noticed one spot where the bluffs at the edge of the canyon have formed a "natural arch" of sorts.
Presently, the canyon is fenced off with signs warning about "DANGEROUS BLUFFS" and "HIGH VOLTAGE." Once the land is stabilized and the dangling utility lines removed, I think that a trail should be constructed through the area so that visitors can safely see the awesome spectacle up close.
With some clever marketing, we could have a new trend on our hands: Disaster Tourism. Missouri might as well take advantage of the tourism opportunities that we've got, such as they are.
From Cape Girardeau, the most direct route to Lake Wappapello involves taking Highway 74 to Dutchtown, Highway 25 to Advance, Highway C to Arab, Highway 51 to Puxico, and Highway T to the Wappapello Dam. Cross the dam and continue to the canyon -- it's hard to miss.