TVA prepared for summer recreation on rivers and land
Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial beginning of summer.
With people planning to be outside, TVA is prepared to host outdoor recreation on land and the Tennessee River system.
Our region is the perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts who like boating and fishing.
TVA fluctuates lake levels seasonally for flood control. Reservoir levels are lowered in the winter months to provide protection from flooding, and then raised during the summer months.
The Tennessee River system's water levels depend not only on the amount of rainfall but specifically, how much water runoff makes it into the river basin.
"Runoff is a lot higher in the winter months. Vegetation is dormant. It's colder outside. There is less evaporation, so we expect to see a lot more runoff in the winter, which is why we draw those lakes down to get ready so we can store all that extra runoff that happens in the winter," James Everett, Manager of TVA's River Forecast Center, explained.
In contrast, there is more evaporation in the summer and more vegetation, which reduces the amount of rain runoff.
Even with above normal precipitation, there will be less runoff making into the rivers, meaning lake levels can be higher in the summer without as much of a concern for flooding.
"Abundant rainfall in the summer months can be a good thing. It's going to help us have extra flow in the system, which is good for water quality, good for recreation,” said Everett.
Recreational boaters are already seeing benefits to our wet spring.
"Abundant rainfall in the spring has meant our lakes in the area, not only Chickamauga but even our large tributary systems, which can be a challenge to fill during some springs, are already full," Everett stated.
Lake levels and flows are currently normal for summer and ready for Memorial Day weekend boating.
"We do want to urge people to use extreme caution. There could be debris out in the water. Especially the first time of the year when the water has come up like it has, could float debris off the banks, things like logs, sticks, and trash," Everett cautioned.
TVA also manages land that you can take advantage of this summer. They have 293,000 acres of public land across the entire Tennessee Valley, primed for hiking, biking, and wildlife observation.
"We live in a hot spot in terms of biodiversity. We are one piece of probably the most biodiverse section of the nation, and so not just aquatic wildlife but also animals and plants," Mark Odom, TVA Watershed Representative, stated.
Two local TVA trails are Big Ridge Trail and Little Cedar Mountain. You can also experience nature by watching bats at Nickajack Cave.
"We do encourage people to use leave no trace practices, to use the designated trails, not to disturb vegetation, and to take their trash out with them when they leave," advised Odom.
TVA is hosting a social media contest called #TVAfun. If you are out enjoying TVA lands, take a photo or short video, post it to social media, and use #TVAfun in your post. Prizes will be given out at the end of the year with the grand prize of a GoPro camera.