Wolf Creek Dam Repairs Result in lower lake level
As you may have heard or seen in the news, The US Army Corps of
Engineers (C.O.E.) announced on Jan. 22, 2007 that they have decided to
lower the lake level while the dam is being repaired.
This page is intended to share the facts that we have learned based on
community meetings, information obtained from the C.O.E., and other research
that we are continually performing. We will update this page whenever we
obtain relevant, factual information.
We hope that this information will help you make an informed decision
regarding your plans to visit the lake this year and give you the confidence to
expect a great vacation experience whether you are bringing or renting a
watercraft, planning a peaceful getaway, or celebrating a special event!
Nearby launch ramp Statuses
Recent News Articles
Recommended Sites for more info with daily updates:
Nearby Launch Ramp Statuses:
As of Oct. 23, 2007
3 permanent concrete lanes completed
permanent concrete extension completed; extra parking added - at the
ramp... Now that's an improvement!
Lake Cumberland State Park
permanent extension completed
permanent concrete extension completed; extra parking added - at the
ramp... Now that's an improvement!
permanent extension completed
May 28, 2008
- Added link to article
Lower Lake + High Gas
- Added link to article
Rep. Rogers says Lake
Cumberland shoreline to be higher next year
May 25, 2007
- Updated nearby Ramp statuses
May 19, 2007
- Added link to KY Commerce Cabinet for newsletters, webcams, etc.
May 15, 2007
- Updated Ramp statuses
April 23, 2007
- Added more links to news articles
- Added table to quickly see ramp status
Feb. 28, 2007
- Added links to news articles
- Confirmed that Jamestown Marina is usable now
- Confirmed that plans are in place to ensure that Lily Creek and Pleasant
Hill launch ramps will be usable in the near future
Jan. 27, 2007
Unfortunately, many of the mainstream media sources are presenting only
some of the facts and painting a very negative picture.
A couple examples:
- Television reports have shown images of nearly dry areas of the lake.
What they haven't made clear is that these areas of the lake are normally dry
in the winter.
- Reports of 80% - 90% of ramps being unusable.
What has not been broadly communicated is that many of the 'ramps' included in
this 'forecast' are non-maintained dirt roads generally only used by
local residents and which are normally only accessible to launch small boats
using 4x4 vehicles.
The fact that many of the major marinas and their ramps will be usable without
modification and that plans are already underway to extend many ramps
before the summer season has not been readily shared.
What is the current status and plan?
The water level was lowered to 680 feet above sea level on Feb. 12,
2007. Marinas have been reconfigured. Jamestown Marina's
launch ramp has been tested by large boats and has proven to be usable (as
expected). Ramp widening/lengthening was completed in 2007 at
Jamestown Marina, Lily Creek, and Pleasant Hill (among others)
The C.O.E. forecasts a re-evaluation of water levels in Fall 2010 based
on the progress of dam repairs at that time.
Why is this happening?
In 2005, a $309 million plan was put in place to repair the dam where
seepage was occurring. Repairs began in March 2006. The C.O.E.
has been monitoring numerous data points and continually assessing the
risk of further damage to the dam.
Though the data indicators recorded at the Wolf Creek Dam had not
changed, the C.O.E. had recently changed the way that they assess and
manage the risk to dams, levees, etc. (largely based on their learnings
from Hurricane Katrina) Consequently, the new
guidelines mandated an increased risk level which resulted in the C.O.E.
taking swift action to reduce water levels in order to reduce pressure on
What are the normal water levels?
Winter pool is 690'. Summer pool is 723'.
How large is the lake normally compared to what it will be with lower
The lake has 1200+ miles of shoreline.
At normal summer pool, it has about 50,000 acres of water surface.
The surface area at the 680' level will be about 37,600 acres. At this
lowered level, Lake Cumberland will still be the 3rd largest lake in KY and
much larger than any other lake in the region.
It's also important to note that in most areas the banks have such steep
angles to the water that a 10' drop in water level will only decrease the width
of that area by a little more than 10' so many of the popular boating areas will
remain largely unchanged.
How deep is the lake?
Because the lake was formed by a dam which flooded vast flat areas and many
valleys of the steeply sloped hills, this varies depending on where you are on
The deepest areas are 200' at normal summer pool. These areas are in the
main river channel (main lake) on the west end of the lake near Jamestown.
Much of the lake is 60' to 100' deep at normal summer pool. This will
translate to 20' to 60' at the lowered lake level. At the very end of the
lake's fingers/creeks, many of which are miles long, the depth will
gradually decrease as it always has.
Will I be able to launch my boat? Are marinas open?
YES!!! All marina launch ramps have been extended to
Jamestown Marina's launch (2 miles from our houses) was lengthened before
Memorial Day 2007 and remains usable to
safely launch boats, both big and small.
Same is true for Lily Creek Launch Ramp (5 minutes from houses), State Dock
Marina (20 minutes from our houses), Holcomb's Landing ramp located near the dam (25 minutes
from our houses), and
Alligator 1 & 2 Marinas.
Several of the marinas on other parts of the lake have launches that will remain
usable without modification.
Projects were completed to add/reconfigure dock space,
extend/widen ramps, and enhance parking at all the major launch areas and
marinas on the lake.
You can rest assured that everything possible will be done to ensure that
boaters will continue to be able to access this gorgeous and spacious lake!
We will provide updates here as they are available.
Will I still be able to rent watercraft?
YES!!! Jump-n-Ski Rentals 270-343-5600
will still be renting waverunners (our guests receive a
10% discount). Jamestown Marina will still be offering pontoons.
State Dock will still offer speed boat rentals.
Is it likely that the lake will be lowered further than 680'?
While safety is everyone's primary concern, the reality is that the dam controls the volume of water that flows thru multiple towns and cities
(eg. Nashville), it is not practical to allow increased flow from Lake
Additionally, the power plants and municipal water systems require certain
levels of water in order to operate so they require that the lake level be kept
high enough to continually supply enough water.
Is it possible that the lake level will be raised sooner than expected?
It is possible. Lake Cumberland serves approximately 4
million visitors per year. Many business people, politicians, and
residents have pressed for the dam project to progress as
quickly as is safely possible and for frequent re-evaluations of the water
level. Additional funding from Congress has been provided to speed up the
- There are more and longer beach areas available to picnic, swim,
- There is much less debris in the water in early season since
the water level isn't pulling downed logs and branches out of the tree line.
- The scenery is a little different...
- There are more and larger islands to explore, uncovered surface
formations, more colorful banks, the waterfalls and cliffs are higher...
- This is a unique opportunity for people to see the lake as close to
its original condition before the dam in many areas. Old roads, bridge
abutments, buildings, etc. are still along the shoreline in many areas and
it's interesting to see them.
- There is more parking at the launches -- and at Lily Creek the
parking is closer to
the water than ever.
- Unfortunately, the media has scared some boaters off to lesser
lakes. On the bright side, this means there is even more open water for
those that understand the real situation and continue coming to this
- New and updated navigational aides and
signage on the lake.
- Better fishing! Lower lake levels have increased the
concentration of fish and make them easier to find.
- A longer swimming season! The water temperature in many parts
of the lake have been a bit higher than normal during earlier and later months in the
Recent and Historical News Articles
Press Release from C.O.E.
- C.O.E.'s Wolf Creek Dam Seepage Rehabilitation
- We highly recommend that you visit
link is a summary page that contains links to multiple news articles, some
of which are repeated below.
- Dam report worried
corps into action April 25, 2007
- The report helps explain why the
corps took emergency action in January to
lower the level of Lake Cumberland to
680 feet above sea level and plans to keep
it there all year.
- Ferguson said the corps has
responded well. The panel is comfortable with
keeping the lake at 680 feet while the
corps makes repairs and monitors the
stability of the dam, he said.
Gov. Fletcher Approves Permanent Extensions at Two Boat Ramps March
- Gov. Ernie Fletcher and the
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) are
taking action to extend two boat ramps
at Lake Cumberland. Bids for permanent
concrete extensions to boat ramps at
Lake Cumberland State Resort Park and
General Burnside Island State Park are
now being reviewed.
- The ramps that are being extended
are Ono in the Caney Creek embayment
($20,000), Slate Branch ($30,000) and
Lilly Creek ($70,000).
New Disc Golf
Course at Lake Cumberland State Resort Park Planned March 9, 2007
Cumberland Lake uncharted water now March 4, 2007
- "People are going to be shocked
at the shoreline that they'll see," fishing
guide Greg Cary said. "But there's
still plenty of water here. Volumewise, some
of the large creeks like Indian
Creek are still bigger than a lot of lakes in
- Cumberland is a deep,
relatively clear lake. Its depth supplies the
water to support the superb striper
and walleye fisheries. The drawdown has
reduced the surface acreage from the
normal summer mark of 50,250 to about
- There's still plenty of deep
water (Cary's depthfinder was marking 104 feet
in Indian Creek),
but the lake has a much different look. Fishermen should
adjust accordingly, advised Benji
Kinman, director of fisheries for the
Department of Fish and Wildlife
- "I think (fishermen) are going to
see a whole new lake and a whole new set of
habitat they haven't seen before,"
said Kinman, who regularly fishes at
Cumberland. "There are going to be
stumps they haven't seen and humps they
You'll also have fish concentrated, but the baitfish will
- Each expects 2007 to be a
- "We're looking for a good
year," said Tarter, who owns Nancy Guide Service
and was a key figure in propelling
Cumberland to national prominence as a
producer of trophy-size striped
bass. "I expect to see some big stripers come
out this year. You're talking about
the same number of fish in a smaller area,
so they should be easier to catch."
- "Its national news, and a lot
of people I talked to thought (the Corps) was
actually draining the lake,
draining it dry. I don't know where they got their
information or what they heard or
saw or read, but that's how they took it."
- Cumberland also is known for
smallmouth bass. Kinman predicts that those fish
will hardly notice the reduced
water volume. Smallmouth prefer cool water and
rocky cover, both abundant at
- "Spawning habitat for largemouth
is one of our concerns," said Kinman, adding
department will add some brushy cover to several shallow areas in March
- The lake and tailwater have
produced state records for seven species: striped
bass (58 pounds, 4 ounces), walleye
(21-8), sauger (7-7), sturgeon (36-8), brown
trout (21-0), rainbow trout (14-6)
and lake trout (5-5).
- Cumberland is one of the best
striped bass fisheries in the southeastern United States.
Tour shows repairs at Wolf Creek Dam
March 9, 2007
- Craig Shoe, the resource
manager for Lake Cumberland, said he expects at
least 15 boat ramps to have been
extended to the lower water in the coming weeks; those with ties to either
the corps or the state of Kentucky. A number
of local ramps run by counties are
also being extended, he said
- Budget bill excludes Horse Park Feb. 28, 2007
- "Fletcher had proposed a $25 million infrastructure fund that could
be tapped for expenses related to the dam repair."
- Lake's area smaller by about quarter Feb. 25, 2007
- "We estimate the surface acreage now to be 38,000"
- "The 101-mile long lake is navigable in a small boat for its
- "The Corps-maintained boat ramps now open include: Waitsboro, Lee's Ford,
Jamestown Marina, Halcolm Landing, Fall Creek, Conley
Bottom Marina, and Burnside Island State Park. But Jennings said the list of
open ramps is subject to change. "Some of the county and state maintained ramps
may also be open," he said. For the most recent list of open ramps call the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers at (606) 679-6337."
- Win, Lose, or Drawdown Feb. 25, 2007
- "Lake Cumberland is shaped like a huge funnel, Smith said. "When you take that
much water away it's going to be easier to find the shad, and that will lead you
to the bass."
- "...he doesn't think spring patterns will
be altered that much."
- "Another positive will be stable water conditions during the spawn"
- "I think we're going to have a phenomenal spring of fishing, and we're going
to see some big females (40-pounders) taken," said the owner of Nancy Guide
Service, a guide on the lake for over 25 years."
- Lower lake a tourism drain Feb. 25, 2007
- "Is the lake dry? Will I be able to get my boat in? Is the dam that impounds
the lake going to collapse?
The answers: The water is low in some tributaries, but the lake is still the
third-largest in the state. Officials have started work to extend launch ramps
and vow to have an adequate number open by boating season. Wolf Creek Dam is not
in imminent danger of failure."
- "pictures don't tell the full story
because even at the lower level the lake has 38,000 surface acres. That's down
from the usual 50,000 in summer, but more than nearby Dale Hollow, for instance."
- "The corps plans to keep the level at 680 feet unless the dam shows new signs
of distress, which would prompt a further drawdown."
- "This fall, the corps will evaluate the grouting work going on now and decide
if it has improved the leaks enough to raise the water level next year."
- "The state poured tons of rock last week to extend the ramp at General
Burnside Island State Park into the water and is looking to extend other ramps,
and the corps has begun letting contracts to extend 10 ramps."
- "If they bring their boat to major developed areas -- state parks, marina
sites, some Corps of Engineers sites -- they will find that they have access to
the water," Ensch said."
problem is battling the false perception, created by media reports, that the
lake is dry.
lake will have less driftwood than usual and new sights to see."
Dam might be fixed in five years Feb. 23, 2007
- "The work could be done in 2012, if not sooner, because of strong support from
members of Congress that could speed federal funding, said engineer Mike Zoccola, chief of the corps' Nashville District civil design branch."
- "Searching for a silver lining, Miller said the lower lake level might not be
so bad. "The shore's not as steep. It's a lot easier to beach your boat."
- "The corps will extend some of the 11 boat ramps it controls, said Mike Ensch,
operations chief for the Nashville District — a move that corresponds to a
similar promise by the state for its ramps."
- "The corps also may reduce its boat launch fees."
- "At more than 35,000 acres, the lake is still beautiful for boating, he
Work Begins to Improve Boat Access at Lake Cumberland Feb. 20, 2007
- "As part of Gov. Ernie Fletcher's commitment to the economic health of the
Lake Cumberland region, work is underway on a boat ramp extension project at
General Burnside Island."
Anxiety rises in Lake Region Feb. 17, 2007
- Earlier this week the state made public a letter from the corps to area
communities, saying lowering the lake an additional 30 feet after Dec. 31
real possibility," and that communities and a power plant that draw water
it will need to modify their water intakes.
- Ky. Lake May Have
to Be Lowered More Feb. 15, 2007
- "Kevin Osbourn, spokesman for East Kentucky Power, said the Army Corps
reported that the water level would be lowered only if grouting repairs don't
- "The Corps said a decision on whether to lower the lake to 650 feet above sea level
after Dec. 31 would be made by September or October."
- Wolf Creek
National Fish Hatchery to Remain Open During Dam Rehab Project Jan. 23,
- Boaters will keep coming Jan. 29, 2007
- Peoples said there is
authorization and federal funding to extend 10 ramps,
including seven at marinas.
- "We're putting together a plan for
the other 30," Peoples said. "They're
owned by other entities and we're
looking for a way to assist them in funding."
- Durham said the lake's winter
level is roughly the same as the lowered level,
so the shift is currently slight.
- Fishing boats can always be
launched from alternative locations as long as
their owners have four-wheel drive, he
- "At the end of the day, it's still
going to be a big lake," Zimmer said.
Cumberland Ramps to be Extended Jan. 29, 2007
- "...he has "great expectations" the corps will get such funding in advance
of the summer recreation season."
- "The state also will look at extending launch ramps around the giant
- Fishing Lake Cumberland to change after drawdown Jan. 28, 2007
- "We're going to go back and verify if a ramp can be used, then decide
where we need to spend money to fix them (extend into the water)," said Benjy
Kinman, director of fisheries for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife
- "When fish are confined they are more vulnerable to harvest."
- "Kinman said he believes striped bass fishing could be excellent this
spring, with lots of topwater action. Another result of a drawdown is
"prey fish species are concentrated and predators eat more. Typically, you see
better condition in fish and higher growth rates."
- "It will be four or five years down the road, when year classes
reach harvestable size, before anglers will notice any declines" in
for business Jan. 27, 2007
- "the perception that) the lake is dried up and the sky is
falling. That’s completely erroneous."
- "those already anticipating spending their summer on the lake will still
find plenty to enjoy"
- Lake business owners ask help
- "The ramps that reach the water at 680 feet are:
- Halcomb's Landing;
- Cumberland Point;
- Burnside Island State Park;
- Lee's Ford,
- Conley Bottom,
- Beaver Creek
- Jamestown marinas ..."
- "Ward promised the state will be "very aggressive" in promoting that
the lake is open for business. One idea is to set up a Webcam with
live pictures to show the lake has plenty of water."
Lower lake may reveal lost smiles
- "We're getting a call every two minutes, and most of them think
there's not going to be any water left, but that's absolutely not true,"
Foschee said. "There's still going to be plenty of water out there for
State seeks to quell concerns over Lake Cumberland plan
- "This is not a panic situation from a safety standpoint,"
Cabinet Secretary George Ward said. "Lake Cumberland is open for
business, and will be open for business this summer."
- "Most, if not all, marinas will be usable, though "some
modifications" may be needed."
- "Potential visitors are being encouraged to keep their plans
but to call ahead to check for "minor changes" in accessibility to the
Congressman Rogers is thinking safety first regarding dam crisis
- "The task before us is to make the best of this situation,” Rogers
said. “I will work closely with the Corps, federal, state and local
officials to launch a mitigation plan to alleviate the economic impact. This
potentially includes extending docks, launch ramps and roadways,
improving parking and campsites, and installing lake navigational aides."
- "Also, I am pushing the Corps to move ahead with all possible
speed on dam repairs. Specifically, this means identifying ways to move
up the estimated 2012 completion date,” Rogers continued. “In the meantime,
a short-term repair is slated for completion in the early fall. There again,
I am urging that project be completed by the summer and that Lake
Cumberland levels can be raised sooner, rather than later."
Is perception worse than reality?
- “When we drop to 680 (feet above sea level) there are still 35,000
to 40,000 acres of water in Lake Cumberland,” Bastin pointed out. “We’ve
still got a lot of water to play in.”
- "Roemhildt said the Corps is trying to get the money to
extend the ramps into the water.