Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Featured Photo: Northern Lights in Tennessee

Friday, December 26, 2014

Drained Lake

Earlier this week, I was over on the south side of town and decided to make a run by Cumberland Mountain State Park.  The rumor that the lake was to be drained had me wondering if it was empty yet as well as wanting to figure out why they were draining it this time.  My first glimpse confirmed that it was drained.  I've seen it drained several times over the years and this one was as low as I have ever seen the lake.  As it turns out, that is a good thing.

For many years, in fact for basically my whole life, I have been enjoying this Tennessee state park.  Byrd lake, while not large, provides decent fishing as well as a great environment for seeing birds and even some good wildflowers in the spring.  More often than not, when I just want to get out of the house, I'll head over to Cumberland Mountain SP and enjoy a walk around the lake.  For most of my life, there has been a footbridge over the lake at the boat dock.  On the other side a trail extends up into the woods to the swimming pool.  Additional trails loop around the lake and the footbridge provided an important cutoff to keep the walk from being too long.  Imagine my shock when the bridge was gone.  Here is a shot from the first time I saw the bridge missing.

Despite high water, the bridge is very obviously missing...

On Tuesday, after taking some pictures of the lake, I stopped by the Park office to see if anyone was around who could tell me the details of what was going on.  Sure enough, I was lucky enough to catch one of the rangers in the office.  Monica Johnson has been working at Cumberland Mountain State Park for several years and kindly answered all of my questions and even a few I didn't know I had.

Looking up the lake from the boat dock. 

Looking down the lake from the boat dock. Check out that structure on the left!

First and most importantly, the lake should be brought back up to full pool sometime around the end of March or in April.  The exact time depends on when they complete their work.  They are hoping to rebuild the footbridge across the lake. Yes, that is GREAT news!

Local trout anglers have been inquiring if the trout stocking will happen and according to Ranger Johnson, the stocking is tentatively planned for sometime in February.  This all depends on the progress of the bridge building project of course, but once the supports are set in the lake bottom, the overall lake level can be brought up somewhat which should allow the yearly stocking of rainbow trout.  If fish are stocked in February, we will have at least 3.5 months of fishing before things get too warm.

As a fisherman, I find the low lake level fascinating.  It allows you to examine a lot of great underwater structure and plan future fishing trips.  I have identified some good drop offs that I plan to fish with sinking lines sometime in the summer.

There is the dam. See how low it is? 

While I was getting my questions answered, I also asked about some rumors that have been going around in regards to privatizing the Park.  Depending on who you were talking to, the plan was for the Park to become a private entity charging for any type of entry.  Naturally, those of us who have been enjoying this Park our whole lives were not happy to hear about that.  Ranger Johnson informed me that they are currently exploring the possibility of having certain aspects of the Park privatized.  A good example of that is the General Store at Fall Creek Falls.  In other words, the overall Park will still be there and those of us who enjoy hiking will still be able to hike.  The Park itself will still be a State Park but some things might be run by a concessionaire, much like many of the amenities in Yellowstone National Park or many of our other great National Parks.  Theoretically it should allow for better services and allow the Park to focus on improving the visitor experience.

Considering that our state parks are free here in Tennessee, I think this is a reasonable tradeoff instead of instituting an entrance fee.  As with most parks (both state and national), our state parks are generally understaffed and underfunded and each park is doing a remarkable job considering the resources they have available.

This brings me to the last item which is how you can help.  As I just mentioned, state parks are generally short on both funding and staffing which makes it difficult to keep up with everything that needs to be done.  Helping out is quite simple.  All you need to do is stop by your local state park and let them know that you would like to volunteer.  You will need to fill out a volunteer form and then they will put you to work.  I'm planning on doing some trail work here at my local state park in the coming weeks.  With a considerable amount of free time in the cold months as a fly fishing guide, I have plenty of time to help out and give back to a local park that has provided countless hours of enjoyment throughout my life.  If you appreciate your local park, I recommend finding the time to help out as well.


  1. Beautiful looking park David. Do you mind if I wait to volunteer until the weather is a little warmer?

    1. Howard, I was just looking at the weather for the mountains in Colorado and saw some forecast lows below zero. I think you'll get a pass if you want to wait until it warms up a little. Brrr...