ALLOY, W.Va. — It’s been 80 years since anybody has physically stood inside the man-made tunnel which diverts water from the New River to the power generation facility in the tiny town of Alloy in Fayette County.
Brookfield Energy, which now operates the tunnel and the power plant, is in the process of inspecting the tunnel and doing so is creating a rare and unique opportunity for river enthusiasts.
The inspection requires the lowering of the water level at Hawk’s Nest Lake and requires diverting water away from the tunnel and downstream of the Hawk’s Nest Dam. Dave Arnold with Adventures on the Gorge said normally the water flowing into the diversion tunnel is about 10,000 CFS and that flow is now being dumped into the downstream area below the dam which is known as “The Dries” because it seldom has water.
“As they’re draining the lake they’re putting more water into the river bed. You could say they are ‘wetting the Dries,” Arnold explained.
Wetting the Dries is often a rallying cry for many in the whitewater rafting game. Arnold said it’s unique and they are taking advantage of it while they can.
“Adventures on the Gorge is probably the most aggressive outfitter on that section, but just about every outfitter has run some trips on that section. Again, for the next two months we’re going to have good water in The Dries because there’s no water in the tunnel,” he said.
The draw down of the lake has created unique and in some cases unnerving situations upstream. The National Park Service has issued guidance advising against rafting trips on the New River below Fayette Station.
“Obviously as they drain the lake, rapids which were under water for the last 80 years are starting to appear,” Arnold said.
The Park Service recommends nobody on the water below Fayette Station since there will be difficult finding a stop to take out and the unusual whitewater currents revealed by the lower levels. No commercial rafting outfits are taking trips into the Gorge. Arnold said that’s because the temptation for experienced river runners is too much to pass up.