Lake Boutin to open in May for swimming

Thursday, April 18, 2013
Keith Klinge of Scott City casts his line into Lake Boutin on Wednesday at Trail of Tears State Park. Klinge was fishing for bluegill and his friend Shawn Williford was fishing for catfish. The lake opens for swimming next month. (Laura Simon)

A renovated swimming area at Lake Boutin in Trail of Tears State Park will open May 10 for the first full season since torrential rains caused landslides and dam erosion in 2008 and drought drained the lake last year.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources planned to spend approximately $250,000 on restoring the 24-acre lake, according to estimates last year by Renee Bungart, DNR communications director. Department officials contacted Wednesday were not able to provide a final expenditure amount.

"The dam has been lowered and strengthened and the beach has been renovated. The lake has also received a fresh stocking of crappie and catfish, courtesy of the Missouri Department of Conservation," according to a news release from Missouri State Parks.

"On a summer weekend, it's absolutely packed," Denise Dowling, natural resource manager of the park, said in the news release. "It's a free place to swim. Local people love it."

Locals have not been able to enjoy free swimming much in the last few years. The park was drenched with 12 inches of rain in a 24-hour period in March 2008, eroding the lake's manmade dam. There were at least 10 landslides throughout the park, Bungart said. The water level was lowered to take pressure off the compromised dam, which eliminated the swimming area and created an unsafe beach slope. It was closed to swimmers in July 2008 and did not reopen until three years later.

Lake Boutin will open for swimming next month. (Laura Simon)

In July 2011, routine checks detected elevated levels of E. coli just after swimming season was announced. The area was closed for nine days until it tested safe for bacteria. No other E. coli incidents occurred that year, Bungart said.

Weather permitting, water will be tested every Monday beginning next week, with results available each Wednesday, she said.

Last year, the beach site was renovated and made handicapped-accessible. A ramp was installed from the parking lot to the water and larger restrooms built. Sand was added, the slope was fixed, and a picnic area with tables was installed.

However, low water levels from last summer's drought "kept the lake level at least four feet too low to put out the swim perimeter at the designated swimming beach," Bungart said. This year, park officials anticipate the swimming area will be no deeper than six feet, she said.

The lake is named for Charles Boutin, a member of the state park board in the 1950s.

"Local leaders persuaded Cape Girardeau County to pass a $150,000 bond issue in 1956. The money was used to purchase about 3,400 acres of ruggedly beautiful land along the Mississippi River," according to the state parks department release.


Pertinent address:

429 Moccasin Springs, Jackson, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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