Phone calls to Pattison State Park have risen along with the temperatures.
“We get multiple calls daily about the beach, and people ask at the window all the time,” Park Ranger Gervase Thompson said.
For the second year in a row, the official answer has been that the swimming beach is closed, although there were no signs to that effect posted Wednesday, June 26. There are no safety issues, but because the dam is offline any water that rain brings in flows out quickly.
“There’s just not much water,” Thompson said, and visitors have to walk through 150 feet of mud to get to it. “It doesn’t make sense to have the beach open when there’s not much water.”
The Father’s Day flood in 2018 undermined the Highway 35 bridge over the Black River as well as trails and an earthen dike, he said, so the dam was taken offline.
How soon the dam is back in operation will determine when the beach on Interfalls Lake will reopen.
“We’re waiting for the OK from the dam safety people and the dam engineers in Madison to give us the go-ahead,” Thompson said. “As a park, we want it open as soon as we can but there’s many more hoops above us to go through.”
There are questions about how the new dike will work as a permanent fix, he said, and experts may be re-examining whether a larger dam is needed to handle future flood events.
Passers-by may see the lake level up some days, but it’s only temporary. When there’s rain on the watershed, it collects in the lake basin for a time. That’s what led to a seemingly full lake Memorial Day weekend. But by Friday, June 21, Telegram photographer Jed Carlson found it had shrunk to pond size.
Last summer, the loss of the Interfalls Lake beach meant a drop in visitor numbers.
“We had a beautiful summer, but with the trails closed and the beach closed, we lost a lot of our day use,” Thompson said. “We’d like to get the beach open this summer, but I can’t tell you.”
Visit Pattison Park’s DNR website for the latest information on beach and trail closures.