Saturday, January 4, 2014

CHEROKEE LAKE TAIL WATERS

Today I started surveying one of two bodies of water I've been assigned to for 2014.  Douglas Reservoir (lake) is a very familiar lake that I've spent a year on back in 2011 but this year Fisheries wants to collect data on the tail race (drainage) of Cherokee Dam.  You've got to remember that Cherokee Dam is over 50 miles long and has over 560 miles of shoreline which makes it one of the largest dams in East Tennessee, exceeded in size only by Norris Dam which lays North West of Cherokee Lake.  That's an awful lot of water, an inland ocean if you will.  Below is a snap shot of only one bay on Cherokee Lake.
What you're looking at in the above shot is only one small bay.  That's a puddle when one considers the full size of the reservoir.  The point is that Cherokee is a hydroelectric power dam as well as a flood control barrier that protects the East Tennessee valley.  It is fed primarily by the Holston River, and other smaller creeks and streams.  Remember Beech Creek and the Holston River I ran on last year?  That's the river that fills Cherokee Lake.  Well, what goes in has to go out the other end and  the other end is the water after it flows through the hydroelectric turbines and is dumped into a narrow channel below the dam, the continuation of the Holston River, and continues on it's way well downstream past Knoxville and points south.
 Cherokee Dam itself is over a mile and a half long.  Whew!  Big un!  The amazing thing about it is that the outflow from the power generators throws water out as fast as the Holston River flows into the dam, and even faster.  More water is released through the turbines than flows into the dam at those times when TVA desires to reduce the water level of the reservoir for the purpose of creating room for an enormous influx of water as a result of heavy flooding.
The water enters the tail water (river) over to the left of that gray vertical wall where the gray rectangular area with tunnel holes  at water level.  Cherokee is a bottom release dam and the amazing thing is that water is released at an average rate of 16,500 cubic feet per second.  Yes, I said per second.  Think about that a moment.
In contrast, dams in Pennsylvania and Maryland where I used to fish had releases of from 75 to 800 cubic feet per second with the Deep Creek Maryland dam releasing at 1200 cubic feet per second.  And there's old Cherokee pumping water at 16,500 feet per second, and that isn't max by a long shot.
Above is a view downstream from the dam.  It is still known as the Holston River, the same river that flows into Cherokee Dam, the only addition is the dam in the river.  The Holston at this point is called a tail race or tail water.  Now, this is the water I will be working with this summer.  The water runs very, very fast and deep when there is a water release at the dam and there is hardly enough water to float a boat when there is "no" release.  Therefore I must complete my tasks by driving a truck to access points along the river.  There will be no boat used for this water job.
 I know it doesn't look like it but the water is roaring in the photos above and below.  They were taken approximately 15 miles downstream from the dam.  Pretty water it is but, oh so fast!
 Fishermen fish this river mostly when the generation and release at the dam is halted, which happens at certain hours during the day.  It takes six hours for the water to drop at this 15 mile point from the dam when generation and release is stopped.  The fishing is good during releases but it's hard to manage a boat and the best way to fish is to wade the edges of the river where the water isn't raging.  The primary fish in this river are trout, smallmouth bass, some largemouth bass, striped bass, bluegills, carp and sturgeon.
I can see me fly fishing for trout in that little inlet above.  I wanted to post a few pictures that lend the flavor of the countryside I'll be driving in during a normal shift following this river from the road in my truck.  It's not what I thought.  The roads are very back country, narrow, mountainous with a lot of empty farm lands and some forest.  There are areas with houses but not many.  There's even on place called Indian Cave Road that has a real cave that used to be visited by folks in the area and even tourists.  The property was bought by a local fellow and closed down.  Guess what - I met the guy yesterday and I asked him if I could get in to visit the cave.  He said I could go on in anytime I wanted.  Oh boy!  I can't wait for that one.
The above shot is just a little creek that I found attractive.  It's a pleasant spot void of habitation of any kind.
 Above is an example of the roads I'll be traveling on when I'm following the river.  Delightful and I never saw a car in four hours of the afternoon.
Old barns are everywhere.  This one definitely has old time character.  It's gorgeous and I had to stop and photograph it.  I'll collect more pictures throughout the summer.
I'm not sure what species the above bird is.  He made himself available to the camera and I took the picture.  Starling?
Above and below is a golden crowned kinglet, I think.  I'm not real good with these tiny birds yet.  Note the intricate border (outline) on his tail.

 The shot above and the one below are of a ruby crowned kinglet.  Note the red  mark on top his head.
And look at this below:  We know what this is don't we?

Good guess.  It's a really large bald eagle nest and it's right where I can watch and photograph it.  I saw the eagle circling over the river earlier and I'm sure I'm going to get some sensational shots of eagles this summer. I can't wait.
I saw beaver sign along the water too.
Shortly after this picture was taken I watched an otter on the other side of the river as he moved along the shoreline.  The camera would not be effective at that distance so I didn't even try.  But, they're here.  Can't wait.
 Run and hide little girl.  If you look closely at the shot above you'll see another deer in the upper left corner.  I never saw that deer when I took the photograph.  Total accident.  It was dark down where she was and I knew the shots would be blurred but decided to post them when I saw the unexpected deer in the above picture.



Ultred, Heathcliff and Sitric were catching the afternoon rays and discussing which way to fly to find the best carrion.

So, now you have an idea of what I'll be driving through three or four times a week.  I'd rather be on the boat for sure, but this doesn't look too bad.  Have to remember that I'll be in the boat on Douglas Lake for part of the week and I'll have the flood plain and upper river sections to visit, not to mention the bald eagles on the lower lake.  I'll just make the best of it.  I hope you found something of interest on this entry and I guarantee things will become more interesting after I "get my feet wet", no pun intended.  See ya.