Great Falls of the Catawba Good and Getting Better! (SC)

Published 11/27/2023  |  American Whitewater

By: Kevin Colburn

We are happy to share a few updates on the Great Falls of the Catawba that we think you’ll enjoy as we reflect on the river’s first year of restored flows. First and foremost the first season was very successful with lots of happy visitors, consistent flow operations, and relatively few safety issues. With this said, we are still learning a lot about the river and how people want to visit it. A recent survey and meeting shed light on what we are learning and how things are shaping up for next year.

The Survey: A big Thank You to the 50 or so of you who filled out our Great Falls survey. We were able to crank out the results and share them with Duke Energy, the Town, the rescue squads, and other partners in a recent meeting. People like the flows and the river and are still figuring out access, and folks expressed concerns about the trees downstream of the man-made channels and the big hole(s) in the left hand man-made channel. We hope to address the trees this winter, however adjustments to the man-made channels are unlikely in the near term. A less than surprising survey result is that people would love a brewery and a Mexican restaurant near the river.

Releases Every Day?: You might notice on the USGS gage on the reservoir upstream of the Great Falls pulses up and down in small increments. These pulses provide the base flow for the Long Channel through the left hand man-made channel. But you also might notice that pretty much every morning levels jump up higher, bringing the Long Channel almost up to recreational flow levels. These pulse flows are the result of hydro-peaking operations, which in the winter will likely result in frequent morning pulses and in the summer will likely result in frequent late afternoon / early evening pulses. Watchful paddlers can enjoy the Great Falls with higher flows a lot more than we thought would be possible thanks to these operations. Paddling is also possible 24/7/365 thanks to the robust base flows in the river.   

Flow Information Improving: Check out Duke’s Lake View App or their flow release website and you’ll notice that releases above base flow are now listed for the Long Channel with a 3 day prediction. We are going to work with Duke Energy on honing this information, and also on a good infographic that correlates reservoir level with flows in the Long Channel. These tools can help paddlers make use of unscheduled releases throughout the year.

Enjoy Great Falls, and remember to be safe out there and hit up local businesses!

This post originally appeared at americanwhitewater.org

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