Upper section of Chilhowee Lake. All of this was underwater
three weeks ago.
Alcoa Power Generating Inc. Tapoco Division is drawing down Chilhowee Lake to make repairs to settlements of an earthen part of the dam. The 20-25 foot drawdown began on Sept. 2, and appears to be almost complete. Alcoa expects to finish repairs by late this year or early next year.
The effects are most noticeable on the upper part of the reservoir, where the original Little Tennessee river bed is almost completely exposed. The lake bed is remarkably clean, with very little silt sediment and not much junk except around bridges and boat ramps. Blount and Monroe County law enforcement officials have pulled out several stolen cars that were exposed by the drawdown. Someone told us there's at least one still visible, upside down with the wheels exposed.
There were hundreds of sightseers out yesterday, more people than I think I've ever seen at Chilhowee Lake at one time. They were parked at every pullout and boat launch, gawking at the exposed lake bed and structures that some had never seen in their lifetime and others remember from the "old days" before the lake was impounded in 1957. Many were walking along the old 129 road bed, which has been underwater for 51 years, some looking for artifacts of one kind or another.
More photos after the jump...
Sunken boat, Chilogatee Branch cove at Happy Hollow
Old 129 bridge and road bed exposed, as seen from the new 129 bridge over the mouth of Abrams Creek. I've night fished off that bridge many times (and jumped off it a few times) and never knew the old bridge and roadway were down there. It's in excellent condition considering it has been underwater for 51 years. The box looking thing is a rusty old pickup truck bed. No idea how it got there. I assume the other pilings were for a railroad bridge?
The view up Abrams Creek cove from the 129 bridge
Looking up the lake from the 129 bridge over Abrams Creek. Not sure what the exposed rock structures are. An old rock fence, road bed, not sure. But I've sure never seen it before.
View of the upper section of Chilhowee Lake from near the Tabcat Creek bridge. By this point the lake is mostly gone and you can see the original Little Tennessee River bed and what was presumably the old 129 road bed.
The Tabcat boat ramp is closed, needless to say. They are still allowing hand-carried, non-powered boats out on what's left of the reservoir. We saw one canoe out there.
Another view of the upper section of Chilhowee Lake from the old exposed road bed at Tabcat Creek.
Same area, looking down the lake in the other direction.
Same area, looking out over drying lake bed. It's still pretty muddy, though, and there are some deep boot prints where people have tried to walk out on it. It doesn't look like they got very far.
129 bridge over Tabcat Creek
Chilhowee Dam. Repairs will be made on the earthen part on the far side.
Close up of the sluice gates. We used to tie our boat up just underneath the sign that says "Warning Keep Away From Dam" to night fish. It has lights on it that attracted bait fish which attracted trout. We caught hundreds of them there. If it rained you could tie the boat up underneath the dam and stay dry. From there you could look out over the top of the steel sluice gates on the other side. To give you an idea how low the water is, at full pool you'd have to duck down to pull your boat under the steel beams.
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