GAVINS POINT DAM, S.D. — "It looks like an ocean," said 12-year-old Zavier Larsen.
Zavier gawked at the churning water smacking the Missouri River and bursting upward, eventually becoming waves of water pouring down the channel.
"How the water boils up, it's just like an explosion," said Dean Kiichler, 68, of Osmond, Neb., one of about 30 people at Gavins Point one afternoon last week.
They came to witness history. Every second, 160,000 cubic feet of water passes through the dam from Lewis and Clark Reservoir. It's the most water the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has ever released.
The corps plans to slightly step down releases from Gavins Point Dam later this month, though the Missouri River is expected to remain high well into August.
On this summer day, people came and went all afternoon, staying for a half hour or for a few minutes — just long enough to snap a few photos.
They came to see where the water comes from that is flooding farmland and homes along the Nebraska-Iowa border.
Some waves surge off to the left, where a few splash the asphalt parking lot, past the extended fence that pushes onlookers back another 7 feet.
The splashes cause kids to scream and hop back.
"I didn't realize it was going to be this massive," said Duaine Clercx, 69, who lives near Rock Rapids, Iowa, and was peering downstream through his binoculars. "It's unreal ... how long it takes to settle down."
Here seems far away from the property and the lives harmed by the flooding.
"Boy, that is something the way that water goes through" the dam spillways, said Clarence Stubbe, 87, of George, Iowa.
The influx of visitors has been good for business in Yankton, S.D., a town of 21,000 people four miles from the dam.
Don Edwards, owner of Murdo's Aten Resort, a nearby family restaurant along the river, said June was his best month in his 23 years of owning the restaurant. He estimates sales were 10 percent to 15 percent better than usual.
"I'd contribute this to the flooding. So many people who come in the door say 'We're just coming in for the day,' " Edwards said. "We're serving a lot of steaks. We go through our fish like crazy."
Lisa Scheve, director of the Yankton Convention and Visitors Bureau, notices more people stopping in, and traffic seems busier in town. Four out of five visitors ask about Gavins Point, she said.
"We've received a lot of great attention from people who maybe wouldn't think of Yankton to start off with," she said.
Still, she worries some tourists are staying away because they incorrectly think the river has taken Yankton, too.
A couple of campgrounds near the river are underwater, Scheve said, but that's it. "Their favorite fishing spot is still there. They just have to move back about 20 feet," she said.
Even Scheve, who works to promote Yankton, struggles to balance the good — more people coming to Yankton — with the bad — people out of homes. Scheve, who grew up in Blair, Neb., moved here from Omaha.
"The faucet is turned on here and you see the water running," she said, "but you don't see the pool forming down in the bucket."
Randy Williams and his wife, Johnny Lynn Williams, also took the road trip to Gavins Point last week, but for them, the trip had a more personal meaning.
On June 6 they left their flooded 500-acre farm in Honey Creek, Iowa, and moved into a Council Bluffs rental home.
"It's incredible. It's quite a sight," Johnny Lynn Williams said.
She appreciates the dam — its power and the waves — but can't help but think about where the water is headed.
"It's amazing to see," she said. "But then, when I think a little harder, I realize all of this is going to end up in my backyard."
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