Dillsboro Dam in the Tuckasegee River has been removed. It was a controversial project, but this is great news for whitewater enthusiasts and the ecology of the river. But it’s also good for those of us who love hiking and visiting waterfalls. Why? Because it means that eventually, releases of water from Thorpe Reservoir far upstream on the West Fork of the Tuckasegee should return flow to the now-dry High Falls.
High Falls used to be one of the more spectacular cataracts in the region, until the dam was built and diverted water around the falls to the powerhouse far downstream. Since then, it has been dry, or nearly so – with just a trickle of water flowing over it from tributary streams that joined the river below the dam. But as a part of its dam relicensing agreement with the Federal government, and to help mitigate the environmental impact of their dams, Duke Energy has agreed to start regularly releasing water over High Falls and down the West Fork of the Tuckasegee River again.
This will allow whitewater enthusiasts to enjoy running the rapids on this river, and restore some resemblance of a real river to the gorge. They’ve also agreed to build a trail and put-in at the base of High Falls. Of course, seeing the falls in high water will be a spectacular sight, as it once was, and this will certainly become a well-known attraction on the days the water is flowing. Let’s hope the final hurdles can be cleared quickly so we can all enjoy our river and waterfall the way it was meant to be!