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Jamestown and Lily Creek Ramps

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!


Recommended Sites
Nearby launch ramp Statuses
Recent Updates
Important Facts
Positive Impacts
Recent News Articles

Recommended Sites for more info with daily updates:

Nearby Launch Ramp Statuses:

As of Oct. 23, 2007

Launch Ramp Current Status
Jamestown Marina 3 permanent concrete lanes completed
Lily Creek permanent concrete extension completed; extra parking added - at the ramp... Now that's an improvement!
Lake Cumberland State Park  permanent extension completed
Pleasant Hill permanent concrete extension completed; extra parking added - at the ramp... Now that's an improvement! 
State Dock permanent extension completed

Recent Updates

May 28, 2008
- Added link to article Lower Lake + High Gas Prices =?

October3, 2007
- 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.

Important Facts

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 the dam.

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 water levels?
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 lake. 
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 accommodate the lake lowering. 

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 Cumberland.
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 project.

Positive Impacts

  •  There are more and longer beach areas available to picnic, swim, camp.
  •  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 amazing lake.
  •  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 season.

Recent and Historical News Articles

  •  The Press Release from C.O.E.
  •  C.O.E.'s Wolf Creek Dam Seepage Rehabilitation project status
  • We highly recommend that you visit www.lakecumberland.com.  This 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 26, 2007
    •  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
      the state."
    • Cumberland is a deep, relatively clear lake. Its depth supplies the cold
      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
      37,000 .
    • 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 Resources.
    •  "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
      haven't seen. You'll also have fish concentrated, but the baitfish will be
      concentrated, too."
    •  Each expects 2007 to be a good year.
    •   "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 Cumberland.
    •  "Spawning habitat for largemouth is one of our concerns," said Kinman, adding
      that the department will add some brushy cover to several shallow areas in March
      and April.
    •  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 entire length"
    •  "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."
    •  "biggest problem is battling the false perception, created by media reports, that the lake is dry. "
    •  "the 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 stressed."
  • 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 "is a
      real possibility," and that communities and a power plant that draw water from
      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 work."
    •  "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, 2007
  • 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 said.
    • "At the end of the day, it's still going to be a big lake," Zimmer said.       
  • Lake 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 lake."
  • 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 Resources."
    • "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 bass numbers."
  •  Open 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 recreation."
  • 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 lake."
  • 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.

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Last modified: March 24, 2014