Rain blamed for campsite closures at Kerr Lake

May. 22, 2014 @ 09:34 PM

Worries for Kerr Lake have centered on coal ash contamination and brutal hits to the economy.

As Memorial Day weekend arrives, there’s another concern.

Recent rainfall has pushed the lake levels high enough that 25 percent of campsites on the North Carolina side of the lake will be closed for the holiday weekend because of flooding.

Heavy rain pushed the lake level from 301.5 feet above sea level to almost 307 feet. It is expected to be down only to 305 feet by the weekend.

“We have 602 camp sites,” said Bryce Fleming, the superintendent of the Kerr Lake State Recreation Area. “We estimate that about 150 were affected.”

Campers with reservations are being notified. By mid-afternoon Thursday, all affected campers had been notified, according to information Fleming had received from the park’s call center.

Moving campers to other sites isn’t an option for most because almost all campsites have been reserved for the Memorial Day weekend.

“There aren’t many campsites left,” Fleming said. “There’s nowhere to put people.”

If other campsites can’t be found for them, campers will have the option of receiving a refund or transferring their reservation to a different date, Fleming said. The usual cancellation fee will be waived.

Campers who want to check to see if their sites are flooded can call the park office at (252) 438-7791.

Some of the boat ramps at Kerr Lake have also been affected by the flooding. Fleming said the Henderson Point Campground ramp is closed, although the other ramps at Henderson Point are open. Nutbush Area No. 1 and No. 3 ramps are closed, but the new Nutbush No. 2 ramp is open. The J.C. Cooper Campground ramp is closed.

In addition, the County Line boat ramp is closed for renovation — not because of the flooding, Fleming said.

Fleming also cautioned boaters to be aware of their surroundings when out on the water.

“Whenever you have flooding, there will be a lot of debris in the lake,” he said. “Be mindful there may be logs and other debris in the lake.”

Visitors who come out just for the day won’t be affected much by the lake level, Fleming said.

“There’s not much beach in some areas,” he said. “They can swim, but I’d caution them if they’re swimming in a familiar area, with the high water there may be dropoffs they don’t expect.”

On Tuesday, several organizations had met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which controls flow of water over Kerr Dam. Frank Timberlake, of Kerr Lake Park Watch, was one of several individuals and organizations that asked why the corps has reduced the flow of water out of the lake, causing the lake level to remain high.

“They said it was because it’s the spawning time for the striped bass,” Timberlake said. “I’ve got a little problem with that. I’m sympathetic to the fact that Kerr Lake has to generate electricity. I’m sympathetic to the farmers downstream. And I’m sympathetic to the striped bass that comes up from the ocean to spawn.

“But I’m also sympathetic to the 25 percent of the campers who won’t have campsites on Memorial Day.”

 

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.