Block Hole additions help recreation access

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

For more than 90 years, the Block Hole south of Cape Girardeau has been a favorite spot for local fishermen to shed their worries, cast their lines and lose themselves. Now the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Little River Drainage District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are cooperating to make the fishing hole an easier place to get sucked into.

Several weeks ago, work began on a $73,115 project to improve access to the Block Hole, which is located on Route U, about half a mile east of the intersection of routes T, N and U on the Diversion Channel. Funded primarily by money from the Federal Sport Fish Restoration Fund obtained through the Department of Conservation, the improvements include an entrance road from Route U, a more spacious gravel parking area for 17 vehicles with trailers, a paved parking space for handicapped drivers and a single-lane, 16-foot-wide concrete boat ramp.

The Block Hole was created in the early 1900s when the Diversion Channel was built to drain the swamp lands south of Cape Girardeau by diverting water from the Castor and Whitewater rivers into the Mississippi River. The 450-foot wide and over 50-foot deep Block Hole is actually a weir -- or low dam -- that was created 11 miles west of the Mississippi, where water from the Castor River and several nearby creeks drops several feet into the channel. The weir was lined with concrete blocks that give the fishery its name.

Larry Dowdy, executive vice president of the Little River Drainage District, which leases the almost 10 acres surrounding the hole to the Department of Conservation, said the ramp was the key element in getting this work done.

Dowdy said that when the Army Corps of Engineers was in the area last fall to work on an erosion problem in the nearby channel, they left a gravel boat ramp that extended from the bank to the hole. That make-shift gravel runway provided a ready foundation for the more durable and practical concrete ramp that now exists. When the Department of Conservation decided to take up the job, they included the parking and traffic elements to the overall improvement project.

Marlyn Millerwith the Department of Conservation said that this project is one of many the department has undertaken in an effort to develop more river accesses. He said the Block Hole project is slated to be complete by this fall.

trehagen@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 137

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