A boy stands next to Lake Junaluska during a lake drawdown

Lake Junaluska Drawdown

During a lake drawdown, the dam is opened to lower the level of water in the lake to allow for removal of silt from the lake’s floor as well as repairs, maintenance and litter cleanup. Silt builds up over time from creeks flowing into the lake, and dredging, silt removal and related maintenance are necessary to maintain an appropriate amount of depth and sustain the lake’s ecosystem. When silt removal, dredging and maintenance are needed, typically every few years, a lake drawdown begins in late December with the lake restored to full pool by Easter.

The lake is lowered slowly, in accordance with wildlife regulations, so that the animals that live in and around the lake can adjust accordingly to the smaller amount of water that will remain. Fish, ducks and other wildlife manage well in the shallow waters until the lake refills. Eventually, during the process, there will not be any water going over the spillways of the dam; however, the gates under the dam will continue to allow water to flow below the dam. Richland Creek will continue to flow freely throughout the entire process. Barring rain in the forecast, an area of the lake near Highway U.S. 19 will become dry. At that point, equipment will be brought in to scrape the lake bottom and collect the accumulated silt. Silt deposits come from runoff into the Richland Creek and Factory Branch stream watersheds, which feed into Lake Junaluska. The work conducted will follow U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit requirements.

During the drawdown of the lake, the Lake Junaluska Walking Trail will remain open to the public. There will be no boating on the lake until the lake is restored to full pool. The time frame for the lake drawdown and project completion by Easter is weather-dependent and may be adjusted if it rains or snows.

A lake drawdown is scheduled to begin the last week of December 2022 and continue into early 2023.

Lake Drawdown
Expand What is a drawdown? contentCollapse What is a drawdown? contentWhat is a drawdown?

A process where the waters of Lake Junaluska are gradually lowered in order to remove the build-up of sediment deposit. The drawdown offers a number of benefits to the life and health of the lake, including the removal of silt, cleaning of litter and time to make necessary repairs to the dam and sewer system. Lake Junaluska conducts the drawdown per state and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit requirements.

Expand Why is there silt in the lake? contentCollapse Why is there silt in the lake? contentWhy is there silt in the lake?

Silt comes from runoff into the Richland Creek and Factory Branch stream watersheds, which feed into Lake Junaluska. When the waters enter Lake Junaluska, the silt slows and settles on the bottom of the lake, building up over time. It must periodically be removed to ensure optimal health for the lake.

Expand When will the drawdown happen? contentCollapse When will the drawdown happen? contentWhen will the drawdown happen?

The drawdown begins in the last week of December 2022. From beginning to end, activities associated with the lake drawdown typically take seven to eight weeks. This time frame can be affected by rain and snow, or lack thereof. The process is scheduled to be completed by Easter.

Expand What will happen to the lake’s wildlife during the drawdown? contentCollapse What will happen to the lake’s wildlife during the drawdown? contentWhat will happen to the lake’s wildlife during the drawdown?

The waters of Richland Creek will continue to flow through Lake Junaluska during the drawdown. While the animals will be concentrated into shallower waters, they will suffer no ill effects from the drawdown.

Expand Can I still walk around the lake? contentCollapse Can I still walk around the lake? contentCan I still walk around the lake?

Yes, the Lake Junaluska walking path remains open, though pedestrians are cautioned to watch for heavy equipment at the lake entry points set up for this project along U.S. 19.

Expand Can I still boat? contentCollapse Can I still boat? contentCan I still boat?

No, boating is not allowed until the lake is restored to its full pool.

Expand Is fishing allowed during the lake drawdown? contentCollapse Is fishing allowed during the lake drawdown? contentIs fishing allowed during the lake drawdown?

Fishing is allowed from approved sites along the shore when water levels allow during the lake drawdown. Guests are not able, however, to fish from the lakebed where the lake level has been lowered. For more information about fishing at Lake Junaluska, visit our fishing information page.

Expand What else will happen during the lake drawdown? contentCollapse What else will happen during the lake drawdown? contentWhat else will happen during the lake drawdown?

A community lake cleanup event to remove litter will take place. The 2023 community lake clean-up is scheduled for March 11. Want to volunteer at Lake Junaluska and take part in a clean-up event? Complete a Lake Junaluska volunteer interest form online.

Expand How often is there a lake drawdown? contentCollapse How often is there a lake drawdown? contentHow often is there a lake drawdown?

Drawing down the lake typically takes place every few years. If the full scope of work cannot be completed due to weather and safety conditions, a drawdown may take place the following year.

Expand How is this project funded? contentCollapse How is this project funded? contentHow is this project funded?

Funding for this biennial project comes from a combination of sources ranging from charitable gifts to public support. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Lake Junaluska relies on the generosity of charitable supporters to help preserve and maintain the lake, dam and its surrounding pathways for all to enjoy. Additionally, this year public funding through the state of North Carolina has been allocated to assist in dredging the lake in order to preserve this Haywood County asset that serves as a recreational hub for many in the community and region.

Learn more about how you can support efforts to preserve and maintain the lake, dam and its surrounding pathways for all to enjoy.