Record-breaking heat extends Joe Wheeler State Park's busy season

The park's boats were booked up last weekend, and they might be booked up again this weekend.

Posted: Oct 3, 2019 4:02 PM
Updated: Oct 3, 2019 6:41 PM

Record-breaking temperatures are worsening the drought and leading to fire alerts across North Alabama, but the weather is also helping some businesses.

Leaves are already falling at Joe Wheeler State Park, not because it's fall, but because it hasn't rained. The hot weather has extended the park's busy season, which will bring in more money to the park.

On Thursday, Frances Vincent and her sisters enjoyed some fishing at Joe Wheeler State Park. Vincent jokingly said it's been this hot before.

"I have seen it hotter than this in October, but it was back in the 50s," said Vincent. "It still feels like August."

While it's decent fishing weather, the drought and heat have sparked thousands of wildfires across the state. The Alabama Forestry Commission issued a fire danger advisory.

On Thursday, the National Parks Service ordered a fire closure for the national parks in Alabama, which means people can't burn campfires in those parks. However, Joe Wheeler State Park is actually busier because of the unusually hot weather.

"We've had several calls. Last Saturday, we were completely booked. We have several new pontoons in," said Denita Butler, who manages the marina at the park.

Butler said normally this time of year is when their slow season starts and people aren't booking boats, but with the heat, their boats are staying booked up and people are still getting out on the water.

"We've got several already rented for Saturday, but as it gets closer, we will probably be booked also," said Butler.

Campers at Joe Wheeler State Park can still burn campfires. They just have to be in the secure pit that's at every campsite.

"As long as they're in a pit, they are perfectly legal, but we do have our rangers out monitoring and making sure everything stays under control," said Joe Wheeler State Park's marketing manager, Haley Newton.

Vincent said she likes being able to sit in her t-shirt and fish in October, but she does want to see it cool down a bit.

"I like the weather like this. Now, it's fine when I'm down here fishing, but when I have to go home and mow the grass, that's not so great," said Butler.

The pool at the park will be open until the end of October, so enjoy the last few days of summer while you can. 

It's unclear how much more money the park will make with an extended busy season, because those numbers aren't in yet.

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