RURAL MOVILLE, Iowa | The place where people from Moville, Kingsley and other areas swam from the 1950s to the early 1990s with a dock, raft and sandy beach is under a massive amount of water in the summer 2016.
Those swimming days are long gone, as Midway Park now is primarily a fishing spot maintained by the Woodbury County Conservation Board. The park's ponds are getting a lot of attention this summer, as substantial flooding followed a June 17 blast of rain from wide-ranging Siouxland thunderstorms.
Area people keep talking about the flooding, which spilled into farm fields to the south and across the highway to the west, adjacent ditches and kept the two ponds at a high spot.
"People are actually fishing in the ditch and catching fish," local fisherman Paul Malm said.
Midway Park is roughly midway between Kingsley and Moville along Iowa Highway 140, hence the name. Located four miles north of Moville, the park contains two abandoned gravel pits that were converted to recreational lakes.
Malm, who grew up in Kingsley and now lives in Moville, said the flooding is the worst he's seen in 45 years of being around the ponds. Malm is an avid fisherman who is out in the park a lot, and noted that in the mid-late-1990s a flooding event was the highest he's ever seen.
But the latest flood has been more long-lasting, Malm said, "This is the longest I've ever seen it sustain the depth."
Malm speculated that the flooding has been so long-lasting because the groundwater level was high, so land got saturated, and "there is really nowhere for it to go."
Woodbury County Conservation Board Director Rick Schneider said the land near Midway Park is flat, with drainage running west to the Little Sioux River West Fork, and creeks likely couldn't handle the June deluge, given saturated grounds. Schneider heard reports of seven to 12 inches fell in the event, even though the National Weather Service officially recorded a trace of rain in Sioux City.
Schneider said he is not concerned by the pooled water and isn't sure if it will recede by winter, particularly after another blast of rain Tuesday, when 2.5 inches fell in Sioux City and Schneider heard reports of five inches out in the county. National Weather Service Meteorologist Brad Temeyer said Sioux City has had a wetter than normal year, with 24.2 inches of precipitation through Wednesday, compared to the average of 19.7 inches.
Schneider said no one has complained about the water collection and he doesn't plan to take any action, rather letting nature take its course. Schneider said it is important to note that the county park land between the two ponds is not overrun by water.
"Our facilities are not flooded, but just that the lakes are up out of their confines," Schneider said.
A man who farms the crop land south of the Midway ponds asked Schneider for permission to run an industrial pump to remove water last week. Schneider said that was a reasonable request, so he told the man to get a permit from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to carry the pumping out.
However, after the pump was running for a few days, law enforcement officials found the permit had not been obtained, and instructed the man to remove the pump.
Schneider said Little Sioux Park near Correctionville is the only other county land impacted this summer by wet conditions. The swimming beach was closed for a few weeks, but the park lake there had receded, so it opened by the Fourth of July holiday. However, the tent camping area west of the Little Sioux Park swimming hole remains closed years.
Midway Park has been a county-owned entity for nearly 40 years. Prior to that, Moville, Kingsley, Lawton and Pierson cooperated in the Midway Park Corporation, which charged a swimming entry fee and used the money to pay lifeguards and make improvements.
Schneider said when the group had difficulty paying for liability insurance, they approached the county board of supervisors to take over the area, which happened in 1978. The county closed the swimming beach in 1992, and now it is a big spot for fishing.
Malm, who is out in the park at least twice a week as he operates Malm Fishing Services, sees a big silver lining out of the flooding. He said a high number of frogs is indicative of a healthy ecosystem, and "that place is booming with frogs."
Malm said this is the most recreational activity he's seen in years at Midway, with a ton of fishing, boating and people paddling kayaks. He said it is the best fishing in 20 years at Midway.
Malm cited many mid-30-inch Northern Pike and one of 40 inches caught in Midway. He's personally shot with bow-and-arrow roughly 1,200 invasive buffalo carp.
"There is a little bit of everything out there...Thousands upon thousands of yellow bass," Malm said.