Both Dams On Big Hungry To Be Removed!

September 2011: The NC Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Commission (NC DENR WRC) plans to remove both dams on Big Hungry and put out a request for proposals to do the work. The closing date for the "letters of interest" was Oct. 7th, and several engineering firms responded. These will get whittled down to a few and then one of the firms will be selected. The actual work itself will depend on final (likely federal) funding, and will perhaps cost on the order of $700,000, a number that was mentioned in the NCDENR WRC request. The timeline mentioned recently puts this next phase around 6 months to a 1 year out.

The earliest mention of the Big Hungry dams being considered for removal (that I could find) is from a 2008 NC Ecosystem Enhancement Program power-point presentation on dam removal. Here is the pdf file. The EEP is a DENR initiative.

Although it will be a mess whenever the project gets going, this is GREAT news for Big Hungry and for fans of free-flowing rivers everywhere. Untold tons of sediment will be removed from behind the dams, including the log-jam behind the lower dam, and everybody's a winner.....the aquatic ecosytem, the fishermen, hikers, and paddlers alike. Sediment issues in the Green River watershed are discussed a bit further on this AW page.

November 2012 article in Blue Ridge Now. Febuary 2015 article in Blue Ridge Now.

Seen above is a photo of the upper dam. There are a few photos of the lower dam on the AW Big Hungry page. Here is a one minute video from atop the upper dam.

Big Dam History

Following the early failure of a steam-powered generator, the next effort at a public electric supply in Henderson County was in 1904 at the upper dam location on Big Hungry. It washed away and was replaced in 1910. Then that dam also washed away and in 1911 the current upper dam was built, followed by the lower dam in 1913. Apparently, after the devastating 1916 floods Henderson County was the only place in Western North Carolina to still have electricity -- because of these two Big Hungry hydro projects. This timeline and information comes from a folk history of the area called "The Banks of the Oklawaha" (Fitzsimmons, 1976, in three volumes). The two dams are essentially abandoned; they are not in use and haven't generated power in many decades most likely, but I'm not sure when it stopped. Both dams are on Green River Gamelands property, which is managed by the Wildlife Resources Commission.

The Lake Summit dam (Tuxedo Hydro) was built just a bit later, around 1916-1921, depending which newspaper account you believe. And as a side-note, those 1916 floods were truly epic (see here, here, here) and the French Broad River in Asheville averaged 66,000 cfs one day that July (and may have peaked near 110,000 cfs). This compares to "only" 35,000 cfs or so during the 2004 hurricanes, and is staggering.

Below is a blown-up portion of a topo map showing Big Hungry River from the upper dam to the confluence with the Green Narrows. The upper dam is just north of Big Hungry Road and can be seen drawn on the map. The lower dam is not drawn on the map but is located downstream about where the "house" is along the creek on river left (eastern side), and before the confluence with the Narrows. From where the road crosses the creek to the Narrows is said to be 1.3 miles. This map is just an out-of-scale little snippit. To view the entire map, go to this Libre Map Project page and open the "Cliffield Mountain" quad map. The Pulliam Creek Trail is not shown on the map below, but the county line does. The Pulliam Creek Trail begins a bit out of frame and further to the right.

Kevin Colburn (American Whitwater's National Stewardship Director) has made an AW Project Page that is following the dam removal. American Whitewater has long been an advocate nationwide for free-flowing rivers. Read more about AW's work in dam removal here________(get linkie).

Below is a pic from Summer 2011 showing the upper dam. Info on this pic here.


September 2011: I'm just tossing up this page to start collecting information about what will likely be a multi-year process, with photos/articles/documents, etc. Please send things along if you find them. Some other Green River maps can be found here. If you are a new visitor to this site and are curious about the Green Narrows, go to American Whitewater's Green Narrows page. Thanks,,,,,John Pilson,,,,johnpilson at the gmail

Author: Dylan McKinney   Location: @Big Hungry Creek Big Hungry Road to Green, NC
Subject: Big Hungry upper dam  Rapid: Upper Dam Slide
Date: 09/22/11  Level:
Size: 558.65KB  Format: jpeg
AW Photo ID: 879790   AW Reach ID:
author of photo John Pilson Details