Spillway release at dam generates lots of interest here, there and everywhere



The recent spillway release at Dale Hollow Dam certainly generated more interest than anything in a long time in the community, at least things of a non-political nature.

The interest wasn’t just in the community, either. People familiar with the lake from visits here over the past few decades were quite interested, too. The photos of the spillway release on our website became the  number one “click” of all time there in less than two days, and continues to be viewed on a daily basis. The photos have eclipsed the next most-viewed thing by 300 percent. 

We also shot some video from the top of dam which was widely viewed. The video footage, even as rough as it was (shot with a digital camera), is in the top five most-viewed single entries on our website since we went on-line.

The pictures were also posted on the WeatherUnderground weather site, where they were viewed quite a bit. That posting prompted an e-mail from a Dale Hollow visitor from up north.

“We were there fishing on Dale Hollow down from Michigan this weekend, and we left Monday, May 11th,” the e-mailer wrote. “Yes, the water was very high and the fishing was not very good….because of the storms we got and the high water.”

I suspect that man wasn’t the only one who found out about the spillway release from a long distance away. Search engine data from our website also indicated a lot of folks who didn’t know our website existed were in search of information about their favorite lake and the dam that impounded it. 

How many times has it happened?

There was a steady stream of folks visiting the dam to see the semi-rare occurrence for several days, including lots of school kids who were taken by bus to see something they had never seen before. (School officials said many students remarked it was their first visit to the dam.) 

In fact, most folks who are under age 25 had never seen water coming over the spillway or couldn’t remember it, with a little over 20 years since the last release. 

Having been on the earth for more than a half-century now, I could personally remember three spillway releases very distinctly and had seen a photo of another when I was a young whipper-snapper. I had a feeling there were others. It turned out there was only one more. 

I contacted Dale Hollow Lake ranger Sondra Carmen, who was kind enough to help me with some research on exactly how many times water had been released over the spillway and the years it occurred. 

She forwarded my request to Robert Sneed, a civil engineer for the Nashville District Corps of Engineers, who provided the following after some research:

Since 1953, when the last hydropower unit came on line, spillway releases occurred in:

• March 1962

• March/April 1975

• May 1984

• March 1989

• May 2009

All the hubbub also produced some more interesting photos for us to look at. Jane Swan brought an extensive collection of photos taken in the early days of the dam to our office of another rare event–water being released through a “sluice gate” at the bottom of the structure. Jane thought the photos were circa 1947, and Sneed, who saw a forwarded copy of the photo, thought they may have been “taken during construction.”


ANOTHER RARE OCCURRENCE-Water is released through a "sluice gate" at the bottom of Dale Hollow Dam sometime in the late 1940's. (Photos courtesy Jane Swan)

ANOTHER RARE OCCURRENCE-Water is released through a "sluice gate" at the bottom of Dale Hollow Dam sometime in the late 1940's. (Photo courtesy Jane Swan)