Archive for October, 2012


This article has been authored by the Public Affairs Lead for Kerr Lake Park Watch or KLPW, Frank Timberlake, who camped at Hibernia State Recreation Area over the weekend and found the answer to a question asked repeatedly over the years.  Frank also came up with an idea. 

The number one question we get asked about Kerr Lake this time of year is, “Why do they (NC State Parks) close all the parks (recreation areas) for winter except for JC Cooper at Satterwhite and Nutbush?”

Over the years, the rumors as to seasonal park closures included but were not limited to: ‘not enough staff,’ ‘maintenance time was needed’, ’employee training time was needed’, ‘no one wants to camp over winter’ and several more. 
finally has a complete answer and it is simple.  The five (5) NC SRA’s, Kimball Point, County Line, Bullocksville, Hibernia and Henderson Point do not have freeze protected water spigots and pipes.  It’s that simple.  While the bathhouses at these parks probably will not freeze even though most do not have heat, the rest of the systems would more than likely develop frozen and busted pipes should the area have a significant freeze.  The recreation areas are not cool and cold weather friendly.

“This past weekend was not especially camper friendly at Hibernia,” according to Timberlake. “I actually took a shower in a chilly bathhouse without any heat.  The bathhouses in Areas 1 and 2 do not have heat.  Area 3’s bathhouse has heat, but it is only open in June, July and August.  Complying with a bureaucrat’s new policy, a bureaucrat who obviously never camped in their life, I also used the toilet in the dark after the new bathroom motion sensor reset itself.  Think about it, when you are sitting on a toilet in a closed stall, it is impossible to provide any motion to a sensor which cannot see you.  I also had to step out of the shower to regain lighting in that section where the lighting is also guarded by a motion sensor.  They are obviously set for a time period that’s too short.”

The five recreation areas, most of which are more popular than the two year-round parks, close fall to spring because of the risk of freezing.  KLPW found that some parks are still using original and outdated 1960’s plumbing piping and fixtures.

But from all this dilemma came an idea.  What if we, the campers and users of those recreation areas who would like longer camping seasons agreed on just a couple of the other parks to be overhauled and worked to help the state overhaul the plumbing?  What if the campers helped to orchestrate some fund raising events at those specific parks to raise what could be matching funds with NC State Parks and possibly even the Corps of Engineers?  It’s been done in North Carolina at other parks.  It’s the public-private partnership scenario.  They are good “what-ifs.”

So now you, the camper and Kerr Lake park user, have the exacting reason that 5 out of 7 Kerr Lake recreation areas operated by NC State Parks must be closed, some for over five months.

If you want to see some positive change, step up and be counted.  Contact us at and we’ll tell you who to contact.

Posted in: KLPW - Campground Facilities and Improvements, KLPW - MAIN NEWS, KLPW - N C State Recreation Areas

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The following is an answer in response to several readers questions on following the guide curve that actually mandates, along with weather, the water levels or lack thereof of Kerr Lake.  KLPW, asked several times to review the procedures, posted comments and questions by Kerr lake user, Jim Arnold.  Below is the response to Mr. Arnold’s comments and questions by Resource Manager Michael Womack.

As you point out, Kerr Lake is a multi-purpose reservoir. As such, our target lake level varies seasonally to better accommodate different purposes–flood storage year-round, but especially in the winter; spawning releases in the spring; and recreation in the summer. Hydropower is a primary purpose of the project year-round and provides affordable power to a number of communities and electric cooperatives across Virginia and North Carolina.

Wilmington District water managers make every effort to maintain lake levels at or near these seasonal target lake levels (also called our guide curve); however, actual rainfall (surplus or lack of) determines how well those target lake levels can be maintained. Where the lake level is relative to the guide curve determines how we operate the project. Generally speaking, if the lake level is above guide curve, we make controlled flood releases to bring the lake back down near guide curve to restore our flood storage. If we are below guide curve, as we have been all summer due to below-normal inflows into the lake, we conserve water by reducing our energy generation to the minimum amount that we are contractually obligated to generate. These minimum energy requirements also meet the minimum flow requirements to maintain downstream water quality. Our minimum energy commitments are highest in the summer and winter months when power customer demands are the greatest; however, these minimum energy amounts decrease significantly (by 33%) in October, which will allow us to conserve even more water and hopefully allow lake levels to begin to recover.

While there has seemingly been decent rainfall at Kerr Dam this summer, keeping the lake full depends on widespread rainfall across the entire Roanoke River basin upstream of Kerr to sustain inflows–but this has not been the case this year. Since April, inflows into Kerr have only been averaging about 50% of normal (based on long-term monthly median inflows), and since the beginning of July, averaging only about 40% of normal. As a result, lake levels have been steadily dropping despite only generating our minimum energy amounts since the beginning of July. Without significant late summer rainfall, often associated with tropical systems, protracted lake level declines can result in recreation impacts, as is currently the case.

The following link takes you to our Project Status webpage, which you may already be familiar with ( and shows lake level plots for the past 2 years (along with the drought curves you mention) and also monthly average inflows for the past 2 years. The Drought Alert curve is a relative indicator of drier-than-normal conditions, but doesn’t trigger any specific response other than just increased awareness. While there hasn’t been an official drought designation in the NC and Virginia portions of the Roanoke Basin this summer, the National Drought Monitor has persistently designated this area as “D0” this summer, which indicates “abnormally dry” conditions.

The Monthly Average Inflows plot on our webpage reflects the below-normal (below-median) inflows mentioned previously. Comparing last year to this year, inflows and lake levels trended similarly, but with a couple of exceptions. First, higher inflows last spring (2011) allowed the lake to stay above guide curve a few weeks longer and track about a foot higher through most of the summer. Second, above-normal inflows last September following an extremely dry August (2011) allowed lake levels to recover slightly and stabilize around elev 296 and not continue to decline as we have seen this year. Of the months you mentioned (July, Aug, Sep), our records indicate that only Aug inflows were higher than last year’s, but were still only about 50% of normal and didn’t allow for any significant improvement.

Michael T. Womack
Operations Project Manager
John H. Kerr Reservoir

KLPW is always interested in comments or questions regarding the public use areas and public use of the John H Kerr Reservoir.  Use the post capabilities here or send us an email to


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The public is invited to join members of the Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society (CHAOS) for a free program on Saturday, October 13, beginning at dark. The public event will last until 11:00 p.m. This program is part of the Staunton River Star Party, which is taking place at Staunton River State Park for the third time October 11 – 16.

Star partygoers will have their telescopes set up for viewing in the field near the park visitor center. Visitors can expect to see a variety of celestial objects, weather permitting. Be sure to dress for cool weather. Coffee, hot chocolate and snacks will be available for purchase.

Staunton River State Park offers one of the best locations on the east coast for viewing the night sky. Hence, the Staunton River Star Party was born. Each event brings in more vendors and sponsors. For more information about the star party, visit the official star party website at

For general park information go to, contact the park office at 434-572-4623 or e-mail Staunton River State Park at  Staunton River State Park is located at 1170 Staunton Trail, Scottsburg, VA 24589.

Overnight reservations can also be made by calling 1-800-933-PARK (7275) or by booking online at


Posted by Pat Eastwood, PR & Marketing Specialist, Virginia State Parks, 1170 Staunton Trail,

Scottsburg, VA 24589Office:   434-572-2190

Posted in: KLPW - MAIN NEWS, KLPW - Park Entertainment/Events, KLPW- Staunton River State Park

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