• Start-up
  • Planning
  • Action
  • Evaluation

Climate informed planning for the Red Bluff Recreation Area. Sustaining recreational opportunities and benefits through a variety of settings.

The Mark Twain National Forest is preparing for more frequent and severe flooding at the Red Bluff Recreation Area. The project will restore vegetation and hydrology along the Huzzah Creek and provide day use opportunities for visitors.

Project Area

Red Bluffs
Red Bluff Recreation Area on the Potosi-Fredericktown Ranger District of the Mark Twain National Forest is named for towering red bluffs along the Huzzah Creek. The recreation area hosts a day-use area, trail, campground, and access to Huzzah Creek. The area is used by many for fishing, floating, and wading during the summer. Facilities such as picnic tables and campsites provide both day-use and overnight recreation opportunities. Huzzah Creek is a forested headwater stream maintained by springs. Historically this site floods seasonally in the winter and spring and is known to experience flash flooding in late spring and summer from localized storms and rain events.

Management Goals

This site has experienced severe flooding in the past. The National Forest is planning for recreational uses to persist in the floodplain or along the creek while managing to reduce flood damage to infrastructure and increase the safety of visitors.

Goal 1: Remove high-risk Infrastructure

  • Objective: Decommission unsustainable facilities in the 100-year floodplain

Goal 2: Provide day-use opportunities

  • Objective: Provide safe access to the river
  • Objective: Locate day-use infrastructure in the floodplain to minimize damage and/or loss of amenities
  • Objective: Disperse day-use activities, rather than concentrate them in one location

Goal 3: Restore floodplain to a functioning state

  • Objective: Stabilize bank erosion
  • Objective: Reduce sedimentation from the campground
  • Objective: Remove and replace stream crossings above and below the recreation area
  • Objective: Improve hydrological connectivity

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include"
More days with extreme heat and warmer stream temperatures.
More frequent heavy precipitation events, and more frequent larger flows leading to more frequent flooding. The severity of these storms has the potential to alter the landscape and river significantly.
Longer growing season, projected to increase by several weeks.
Potential periods of drought and more frequent low stream flows in summer.
Intensified/additional tree mortality (from flooding and invasive insects, other forest health issues)
More insect pests (ticks), pathogens, and invasive species (poison ivy).

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:


Changing flood frequency and 100-year floodplain could affect facilities under consideration, e.g. restroom facilities.
More frequent high flow days and flood events may lead to reduced day-use opportunity days. Flash flooding may present safety challenges to recreation area visitors.
River channel morphology may change with more frequent higher flood flows (e.g. meandering channel). This may create new hazards and alter river access points.
Longer warmer recreation season may increase visitation and increase pressures on the site (affecting vegetation, facilities, access to river, personnel needed).
Lower stream flows may affect river recreation (e.g. tubing, canoe access, water play).
Hot days may make sun-exposed day-use facilities less desirable.
Reduced fish habitat & changing aquatic species present at site.
More ticks and poison ivy due to longer warmer growing seasons. Longer mowing season.


Increasing day-use area opportunities and longer season for alternative recreation uses.
More visitation & public interest to use the campground and day-use area.
Higher demand for electric sites drawing new interest to upper campground area.
Fish and aquatic species may change over time to cope with warmer waters.
Increase in daily stream flows during summer season (after rain events) could be beneficial to recreation visitors.

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project, including:

Campground and day use facilities
Convert campsites located in floodplain to day-use areas with river access.
Design restroom facilities to withstand flooding.
Campground and day use facilities
Integrate considerations of future flood flows and future floodplain areas into vision and plans for day-use area (e.g. location of: access points, parking, picnicking, trails, vault toilets).
Day-use area and stream banks
Consider plantings that will tie in with picnic sites to provide shade over time.
Day-use area and stream banks
Establish vegetation using native species that can cope with projected conditions. Favor larger stock trees that may survive intermittent flooding during early establishment.
Consider hardening the upper parking lot with pavement.
Consider gravel in lower parking lot that is more subject to severe washouts.
Use day-use materials that are robust to flooding, or can be moved before a flood event.
Education and outreach
Plan to incorporate safety alert to notify campers and day-use area (e.g. signage, alarm, improve cell phone coverage).
Education and outreach
Integrate climate change messaging into programs and interpretive signage (trails, etc.). Use past flooding stories, photos to illustrate how past events have impacted this site, and shaped the uses at this site.


Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:
Visitor use information such as counting the # of visitors, evaluating visitor satisfaction (e.g. count fee envelopes, traffic counters, comment cards).
Infrastructure damage, counting the # of reduced days of access due to flooding (e.g. evaluate # of closures to day-use area due to higher water levels over time, compare costs of repairs to cleanup post-flood).
Enhanced communication and warning systems (e.g. evaluate effectiveness of early warning system, and timing of alarm vs. the event).



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