Friday, August 19, 2011

MUD HILLS ON CHEROKEE LAKE

If you look closely toward the upper right side of the photo above you will see a brown colored area.  That is the appearance of a mud hill.  They show up as the lake is lowered in water volume.  The entire lake actually sits upon an area that was originally covered with mountains and foot hills.  There are many houses and farms at the bottom of the lake also.
Above shot is same mud hill from another angle and a bit closer.  These hills of mud present a very great danger to boaters, especially those who visit from out of state and to those who do not use a lake map or sonar.  That group of boaters would include jet skiers and wave runners.
The above shot shows the extent of the mud hazard.  The actual peak of mud is off to the right of the picture and in the next photograph.  The water depth I'm in when I took the shot is 80 feet.  So that mud mound goes 80 feet down, or is 80 feet tall depending how you look at it.  The actual dry land will be present tomorrow sometime.  It is just poking through the surface today.


Cherokee Lake at full pool (measured from sea level) runs about 1100 feet above sea level.  It was at 1062.09 feet when I took the picture.  Do the math and you'll find that the lake has been lowered 38 feet already.  Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will probably lower it a total of sixty feet eventually in the Fall.  It has been dropping two feet every week at least for the past month.
Same mud hill seen from different angle
The scary thing is that these mud hills are out in the middle of the lake where one wouldn't expect to find a hazard.  One second a boat is in 100 feet of water and ten seconds later it's 40 feet, then 15 feet and if you keep going;  you're sunk---literally.
Mud hills and rock piles (tops of underwater mountains) appear to the left or right of the main river channel that flows under the resevoir waters on the bottom.  That original river, in this case the Holston River, is still there and flowing.  As long as the boat is kept directly over the river there is no danger.  There are no mountains in the middle of the river.  But, stray left or right onto the big water called bays and you have to keep your eyes open.  Slow speed is the safest bet.  My sonar unit shows great bottom detail and I have a superior GPS unit that actually shows me the Holsten River and also my boats location on the lake.  I keep the boat directly over the river when I need to make time.  I can also insert lake points where I want on the GPS map on the unit's screen.  But even then there is no guarantee of not hitting something.  Gotta read the water too.
The mud pile above shocked me to death.  I just motored through this spot yesterday and it was clear.  No danger in sight.  Look at that scary thing in the picture.  There's actually waves breaking on it.   This one is far up German Creek at the North end of the lake.  I'm told that when the lake is lowered to the max;  that the shoreline will be at the edge of this mud pile.  Amazing.  Can you imagine what night time travel would be like on this lake?
I'll show you one more.  Above is one I've been watching materialize for a week now.  Look how far off shore it lies.  I'm amazed that TVA doesn't mark these with buoys.  When they are out of the water there's no problem.  But when their inches under the surface they can be deadly.  How bout a water skier hitting one of these after the boat pulling him hits it first!  Whew!
TVA generates a lot of power from Cherokee's generators and money talks.  The lake is a major flood control lake for the Tennessee Valley also.  I guess draw-down is necessary.  But, it's an impressive event for sure.  I'll provide pictures of the lake in a couple more weeks.  You'll think you're on the moon.  Keep in mind that Cherokee Lake is 58 miles long, runs 150 feet deep and has 580 miles of shoreline.  They can empty it practically overnight if they want or have a need to.  Amazing!