Commonwealth Journal

Columns

August 3, 2007

Lake Cumberland alive and well

Is the lake still a lake? Do suddenly exposed banks cradling deep blue water sully the beauty of the crown jewel of the Cumberlands?

Prior to the travails at Wolf Creek Dam, Lake Cumberland had 1,250 miles of shoreline. The impoundment pushed into fingerlike, forested coves from the mile-long dam south of Jamestown to London Dock near Corbin.

The lake’s normal depth ranged from more than 200 feet near the dam to between 80 and 100 feet in the Somerset-Burnside area. The water, a mile across in places, inundated more than 65,000 acres and was the deepest lake east of the Mississippi River.

Lowering the lake level early this year to ease pressure on the leaking dam generated all types of negative stories and rumors. “I haven’t been there, but I’ve been told” gossip gives an impression that the lake is little more than a gaping mud puddle.

Not so! No way! Wrong! Lake Cumberland is still wide and deep. Just visit the lake or ask people who know.

Bernie Kearns knows. He is the acting resource manager for the lake. He’ll tell you that unless you go to the headwater of a creek, you’d better take a life jacket.

Members of the Somerset-Pulaski County Rescue Squad have probed the bottom of the lake. According to news reports, the body of a drowning victim was recovered last weekend in 62 feet of water about a quarter of a mile west of John Sherman Cooper Power Station. That’s as deep as a six-story building is high. No boat will drag its rudder in that kind of water.

Repairs at Wolf Creek Dam have not vanished the lake, a vital economic engine for more than half a century. A visitor standing near the now-extended ramp at Waitsboro Recreation Area marveled at rooster tails from six speed boats racing in open water. Pleasure craft took turns backing onto the extended ramp.

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