Today, March 15, is the grand opening and ribbon cutting for the Great Falls Recreation Flow Release Project, which will return water to two channels of the Catawba River, creating opportunities for whitewater enthusiasts.
Duke Energy has completed its construction work on significant recreational and environmental enhancements at Great Falls Reservoir.
The Great Falls enhancement project returned water to two river channels, which were dewatered when the Great Falls Hydro Station was built in 1907, restoring habitat for aquatic life and creating recreational opportunities for the public. The project has taken over a half decade to complete and will include whitewater recreation, boater access, parking and trails.
Public access will open with the first scheduled recreation flow release Saturday, March 18, along with the opening of the Nitrolee Access Area, 528 Catawba River Road, Great Falls. There will be another release March 25, and they will continue into October. Recreational releases are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
These scheduled releases will provide whitewater enthusiasts the opportunity to paddle the 2-mile stretch of the long bypass reach from the Great Falls Reservoir to the Cedar Creek Reservoir.
It is important to note that when the water is released, it will rise quickly in the bypass channel. Scheduled flow releases are subject to variability based on natural conditions and/or unexpected changes in hydro project operation.
Modification of the dam that creates the long bypass river channel includes the creation of two release points for flow. One will be used to provide a continuous flow for improving aquatic habitat downstream, as well as recreational flow.
The other entrance will be used only for flow for recreational use, helping to provide a safe access route into the river for boaters who wish to navigate the more than 2 miles of the downstream river channel. This original section of the river contains Class II and III rapids.
Farther south on Great Falls Reservoir, pneumatically controlled steel gates have been installed on more than 500 feet of the short bypass concrete dams to provide aquatic flow releases, recreation flow releases and flood management.
This section of river will be accessed from the Great Falls canoe/kayak access trail on Mountain Island. The river section downstream of this area is about .75 miles long, and the recreation flow releases will have a rapid flow of water that is expected to create Class III and IV rapids for advanced paddlers.
Flow releases into the short bypass reach will begin in May.
For the most up-to-date information about lake levels and scheduled releases, visit duke-energy.com/lakes or download the free Duke Energy Lake View mobile app.