Feb. 13 Update: Cincinnati Parks Riverfront Flood

Sandbags line the rising Ohio River

Feb. 13 Update: Cincinnati Parks Riverfront Flood

As of February 13, 2020 our team has continued to take precautionary measures to prepare for the flood. The river is expected to crest on Saturday, February 15 at 53.5 feet. The following has been completed to prepare:

  • Barricades have been deployed along some of the back walkways in Sawyer Point. Please be aware that water depth may be deceiving, please stay safe.
  • Electric transformers and lighting along some paths have been removed from low areas. Some walkways may be darker than usual but not completely without light at this time.
  • Parking at the Public Landing is closed
  • Temporary flood wall has been installed at the Rowing Center.
  • California Woods gates have been locked, due to water reaching the road.
  • Magrish nature Preserve is/will be under water, please do not enter.

Ohio River is Predicted to Reach Flood Stage on Friday, February 14

The Ohio River is predicted to go to flood stage (52′) on Friday, February 14, 2020. It is currently at 44.64′. At 52′ the river begins to rise above the Serpentine Wall at Yeatmans Cove, climb up the bank of the Great Lawn at Smale Riverfront Park and reach the lower bridge and California Woods. Although the Riverfront was designed to handle flood waters there are many action steps that need to occur to protect park assets. The list below are the action steps that will occur this week:
  • On Tuesday, February 11th, Magrish Preserve will close due to water reaching the parking lot.
  • On Wednesday, February 12th, the gates at California Woods will close to prevent vehicular traffic, however programming will remain in place until the water levels reach the lower bridge at 51′. All participants will be instructed on how to arrive at the Nature Center.
  • Signage and barricades will be placed on some portions of the back walkway at Sawyer Point. Continuous deployment of signage and barricades will follow to ensure the safety of all.
  • Proactive preventative maintenance measures will include turning off electric to some portions of the park, removal of electric transformers at the Public Landing, removal of lights along Serpentine Wall and removal of garbage cans.  Action steps that will be monitored include removal of the restrooms under the Roebling Bridge, the Foot Piano at Smale Riverfront Park and removal of the electric transformer at the P&G Stage.
  • Staff will work with our partners at Montgomery Inn to assist with clearing the basement, securing/removing the equipment at the Rowing Center and constructing the temporary flood wall in front of the Rowing Center entrance.
  • Dependent upon the crest level of the river, Anderson Pavilion staff will be put on alert and actions will be taken if necessary.
  • Updates and notices will be placed on our website and through social media as they occur.

Remember that flood waters are dangerous and should not be entered. The water can be deeper than it appears, have strong currents and is combined with sewer flows. Don’t attempt to drive through flooded areas or swim in flood water!

As river levels recede, our work will just begin. The Cincinnati Parks team will shift efforts to clean up debris left behind and place the parks back into working order.

  • Smale Riverfront Park was built as a series of terraces that accommodate seasonal flooding along the river edge, which includes areas lifted out of the floodplain.
  • The P&G go Vibrant Interactive Piano keyboard at Smale was designed to be removed.
  • The restrooms under the Roebling Bridge are mobile units which can be moved offsite, bringing a whole new meaning to portable potties.
  • Smale Park’s Great Lawn is an expansive area for programs and events and was intentionally left open to prevent park features from being destroyed during a flood.
  • The serpentine wall at Yeatman’s Cove is a “hard-edge”, constructed to protect and stabilize the bank.
  • Bollard lighting along the Riverwalk are removable by design and one of the first items pulled during flooding.


Infographic Showing different levels of action during a flood in CincinnatiInfographic Showing different levels of action during a flood in Cincinnati
Infographic Showing different levels of action during a flood in CincinnatiInfographic Showing different levels of action during a flood in Cincinnati
Infographic Showing different levels of action during a flood in Cincinnati
Water flooded up on to the sidewalks during the 2018 Ohio River Flood.
A crew guides a giant piano piece in front of the Reobling Bridge.
A group of employees work with a fork lift to remove pieces from the interactive piano.
An employee looks over a cement wall to see the rising river level.
Employees construct a flood barrier in front of a pile of sandbags.
A group of smiling employees pose in front of the rising river.