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Nantahala Dam to Spill This Fall

Posted: 10/28/2009
By: Kevin Colburn


With a prolonged maintenance outage at Nantahala Hydro Station and higher than expected rainfall Duke Energy is expecting to begin releasing water through a gate at the Nantahala Lake Dam on Monday, November 2, 2009.  These releases will provide additional flows in the Cascades and Upper Nantahala runs, as well as the Lower Nantahala.  Duke Energy will attempt to maintain lower flows Friday-Sunday to support "delayed harvest" fishing in the Upper Nantahala, while releasing higher flows Monday-Thursday. High inflows could require consistent releases all week.  This management marks an opportunity for paddlers to enjoy the Class IV+ Cascades and Class III+ Upper Nantahala, and is likely to last until late December.


We ask that paddlers be careful to park and walk well off of the narrow mountain road adjacent to the Upper Nantahala, even if it means extending your paddle slightly longer than you would prefer.  Several local entities are concerned about traffic and public safety issues, and we are confident that paddlers will set their minds at ease.  


On a weekly basis Duke Energy will post an update to their operating plan on the Nantahala Lake and Rivers website. Once on the website, click on the message adjacent to Nantahala Lake under the heading “Date Lake Message Updated.”  Please note that the website will be updated by noon on Monday projecting operations for the week looking forward.  Duke Energy’s operations plan may change without any prior notice should circumstances warrant it.   It is critical for recreation interests and others using the Nantahala River to understand the potential for these changes to avoid hazardous situations.  This weekly notification on the website will provide the recreational interests an approximation of what the stream flow is at the Nantahala Dam. Please note that White Oak Creek and other tributaries provide significant inflows as well.  Paddlers can gain a relatively good idea of flows in the Upper Nantahala by refering to the Nantahala River at Hewitt USGS gage (to the right of this article) which describes the Upper Nantahala plus Queens Creek and a few other small tributaries (there is no generation flow during this maintenance period). Note that the AW color coding on the river pages is not accurate during this release scenario.  During a flow study several years ago, paddlers determined that instream flows in the range of 250-350cfs were optimal for the Cascades and higher flows were optimal for the Upper Nantahala.


The Cascades and Upper Nantahala run often on natural flows from White Oak and other tributaries, and have a long history of enjoyment by paddlers.  In addition, eight annual scheduled releases were negotiated by American Whitewater and our partners, and the long-overdue releases will begin when the dam relicensing process finally works its way through the regulatory process in the next few years.




Kevin Colburn

Asheville, NC

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Nantahala Relicensing (NC)

AW has worked with regional stakeholders to relicense several dams on the Nantahala River and its tributaries since 2000.

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Associated Gauges

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Gage Reading Last Updated
NANTAHALA RIVER NEAR HEWITT, NC (AW#8909) 1120 cfs 00h54m
NANTAHALA RIVER NEAR HEWITT, NC (AW#8909) 3.35 ft 00h54m

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