Explored: April 4, 2002 by Shawn Dunnaway
2015 Update: The article and photos below are from 2002. Quite a bit has changed since then, but we wanted to keep the photos and article as we saw it 13 years ago. Enjoy!
Driving through the Kentucky Dam area on this sunny Thursday afternoon, we crossed the dam and noticed that some of the 9/11 restrictions had been lifted. Since September 11, security at Kentucky Dam has tightened and up until recently, all access to the dam was restricted. Now some of those areas are open again - we were delightfully surprised.
We drove down the access road and saw a couple of deer off in the distance. We tried to get a few pictures, but the deer just didn't show up very well when we downloaded them from our camera. Driving on, we were greeted by a slow-moving P&L train crossing the dam. Even though the train was traveling somewhere around 15-20 mph, we could feel the ground vibrate underneath us from where we were standing.
Once we reached the Visitor's Center area, we noticed there were a lot people fishing below the dam. At this point, Kentucky Lake's tail waters, the Tennessee River, was flooded. The water was close to 30 feet above the normal stage. Folks were out fishing the fast-moving waters. Notice in the photo below most of the gates of the dam are open and spilling. We should point out that there were no boats in the water. It is extremely dangerous to fish near the dam, especially when the gates are open.
Directly behind us, we saw tons of transformers, power lines and towers. Kentucky Dam provides hydroelectric power to the Tennessee Valley Authority. Water rushes through the dam turning large propellers like this one in this photo. The four turbines under the dam generate electricity for the area. This particular propeller weighed just 204,000 lbs. and stood about 10 feet tall.
We then headed down to the Visitor's Center. Once inside, we noticed lots of historic photographs of the dam and the area it affected. We also saw illustrations of how the dam works. One of the neat things about the Visitor's Center is the Control Room. There is a large window where you can peer into the large control room for the dam. The picture is seen at left, although it doesn't do justice because of the reflection in the glass.
We followed the self-guided tour down some stairs and into a hallway. I couldn't help but notice the decor and structure of the place. You could tell the dam was constructed in a modern 1940s style just by looking at the features. It was very interesting!
At the end of the hallway, we ventured out into a huge room where four hydroelectric turbines generated electricity. It was very neat to see where my electric power comes from! The turbines weren't that loud, but they did cause the entire facility to vibrate.
Walking back out of the visitor's center, we drove back up the access road and crossed the dam again. US 62/641 actually runs on top of the dam - but not for long. The US Army Corps of Engineers is making some very significant changes to the dam, including the addition of a 1200-foot lock and the relocation of US 62/641 about 1/2 mile downstream.
We stopped along the road and took a picture of the progress. Here, you can see a large levee being constructed that will hold the new US 62/641 as well as the P&L Railroad. A bridge(s) will be built across the Tennessee River, taking traffic off Kentucky Dam. Everything is expected to be completed by 2008 at the earliest.
It was time to go home! It was a fun-filled trip that we encourage everyone to take!