A little over years ago, Joaquin and Jennifer Torrans decided they wanted to escape big city life and buy an outfitters camp.
They loved the Ozarks, so the residents of Fort Worth, Texas, focused their search on the region. They eventually found a place that looked suitable listed on a real estate website, visited it, and knew it was right.
The Torrans purchased Boiling Springs Resort – west of Licking in Texas County – on Dec. 2, 2015. It was a dream come true.
A few weeks later, rain began to fall. It kept falling for days – hard.
As the year waned, the Big Piney River crested at about 30 feet at Boiling Springs and the Torrans’ dream was about five feet underwater. As the situation became dire, a neighbor who lived on higher ground reached out to help.
“When it had been raining for four or five days already, we started to get nervous,” said Joaquin – who goes by the name, “Wook.” “It was Christmas day, and the kids got to open their presents and there was lots of fun. That afternoon at about four o’clock, he called and said, ‘pack up what you need and get up here before it’s too late.’ So we did.
“We stayed with he and his wife for several days. They came every day for six months after that and helped us do something.”
Both Joaquin and Jennifer have backgrounds working in the theater field, including stints at Casa Manana Theater in Fort Worth. In fact, they met through a mutual friend who was also in theater.
At the time of their move from Texas, Jennifer had worked in the financial field for about 10 years. Faced with having to deal with their catastrophic debut as owners of Boiling Springs Resort, the Torrans quickly learned what life in the Ozarks is like.
“The next day, when the water went down, the whole parking lot was filled up,” Wook said. “Everybody from the community around here showed up to help. That’s the way we met people – they showed up to help clean up the camp.”
Volunteers mucked out the resort’s iconic general store and other buildings, stripped up ruined floors and basically went all out.
“They brought tons of equipment,” Wook said. “They knew exactly what to do. They had been through this before and we hadn’t.”
The Torrans (including their 8-year-old daughter, Miranda, and 18-month old son, Henry) had moved from their house on the property to “the triplex,” a rental unit that was raised off the ground after a flood by previous owners of the resort and was the only building to remain above the high-water line this time around.
“For more than two weeks, people brought us food to eat,” Wook said. “And not just us, but everybody who was working here, too. Sometimes there were 20 or 30 people to feed lunch, and they did it.”
“We may live in a flood plain,” Jennifer said, “but we live here with some fantastic people.”
Big-time relief also came from Jennifer’s grandfather, who was a State Farm insurance agent in St. Charles, La., for 50 years.
“He had been through lots of hurricanes and floods, and he saw on the TV news how badly we had been flooded out,” Wook said. “He knew exactly what to do and sent a remediation crew up here and picked up the tab. That was very generous.”
The generosity manifested in professionals who gutted the resort’s cabins and other buildings and used high-tech gear and materials to clean things up, dry things out and prepare the wooden surfaces for the future.
“The used these big drying machines in each of the cabins and sucked out about 12 gallons of moisture from each one,” Wook said. “It took two days per cabin. It was incredible.”
When that crew was done, the rebuilding began. With the help of local professionals Clint Stewart (of Stewart and Sons Construction) and Rich and Erik Peterson (of Ozark Plumbing), new floors, walls, electrical, water heaters and plumbing were installed. The refurbished cabins (originally built as logging camp bunkhouses in the 1940s) are more flood-ready now than ever, with electrical lines coming in from above, minimal plumbing exposed underneath and water heaters mounted on platforms suspended several feet above floor level.
Walls are waterproofed plywood void of drywall, beds are special waterproof “institutional” units and everything else is put together with high water in mind.
“We got to learn so much about things that are unique to the lodging industry,” Wook said. “But it would be fine with me if we never have to find out how well it all holds up.”
Wook said he Jennifer have come to understand how much the resort means to a lot of people.
“People love this place,” he said. “A lot of them have been coming here all their lives; this is what they remember from growing up and now they’re bringing the fourth generation here. Really, we own this place, but it’s theirs.
“We’re just the stewards. We want to keep it family-oriented and preserve those memories while we also continue to help make new ones.”
Despite its rude welcome last December, Wook loves the Big Piney River.
“When we visited here, I took a float trip on it and fell in love with it,” he said. “It’s the most beautiful river I’ve ever been on and I’ve been paddling for about 10 years. It’s beautifully clear, it’s gentle and it’s interesting with lots of meanders.
“Nothing else compares. I’m not even mad at it for the flood we had.”
“We knew we were moving to a place that was going to flood,” Jennifer said. “But considering it intellectually and actually going through it are very different.”
“And we never expected it in December,” Wook said. “That was the first time in Missouri history that a flood like that happened in December.”
Many of the improvements made to Boiling Springs Resort’s buildings and grounds after the big flood were already on the Torrans’ to-do list.
“It was all stuff we wanted to do,” Jennifer said, “but not in 10 weeks.
“We were thinking more like 10 years,” Wook said. “But we’ve received a lot of positive feedback about things being fresh and new. But the camp needed it.”
If the same thing ever happens, the Torrans plan to capitalize as much as possible.
“There were 40 or 50 cars parked along the road watching,” Jennifer said. “Next time we’re going to sell T-shirts and soft drinks. We’re going to host a flood party.”
The resort’s successful recovery preceded a good run of business, Jennifer said.
“It’s been a wild ride, but it’s been a great summer,” she said. “I really didn’t expect that we’d have almost too much business to handle. But that’s a great problem to have.”
For however long they own Boiling Springs Resort, the Torrans will always remember their initiation.
“We really should have made a reality TV show out of it,” Jennifer said. “It was amazing.”
“It was our goal to get out of the city,” Wook said, “but we never expected to find a place that had a community of like-minded people who share the same values like family, honesty and hard work. But that’s what it’s like here.
“In a way, this really was a blessing.”
“It has been the most difficult and the most fun thing we’ve ever done – at the same time,” Jennifer said.
ABOUT BOILING SPRINGS RESORT
Open year-round, Boiling Springs Resort offers lodging in nine cabin units and one RV camper, and has 34 RV parking spaces (with full hook-ups) and numerous areas for tent camping. Float trips on the Big Piney River are available via canoe, kayak, raft or tube, with shuttle service to various put-in locations. Visitors are welcome to bring their own boats, too.
The resort has free wi-fi and a general store, and also offers hunting and fishing permits. Shuttle service to and from the BARn at the Piney River Brewing Co. in Bucyrus is available during its hours of operation on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
For more information, log onto www.boilingspringsresort.com or call 573-674-3488.
ONLINE: View more photos from Boiling Springs Resort during and after the December 2015 flood at www.houstonherald.smugmug.com.