News Release

Record-Breaking Rain Event at Big South Fork NRRA

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Date: March 29, 2021
Contact: Christopher Derman, 423-569-9778

A record-breaking 9 inches* of rain fell in the park from March 25-28, causing disruptions to park operations. This resulted in a significant amount of water flowing through the park's waterways that pushed the park's four river gauges to their operating limits.

On March 28, the river gauge at the South Fork of the Cumberland River at Leatherwood Ford reached peak stage at 12:45 with a gauge height of 42.38 ft. Discharge reached a maximum calculated level of 81,300 cfs at 9:15 AM, at which time the gauge height was 41.7 ft. Three days prior on March 23, baseflow was 7.12 ft with a discharge of 1,250 cfs.

To put those numbers in context, it has been estimated that one cubic feet per second is equal to approximately 450 gallons of water flowing in one minute. The cfs that is considered safe for a body of water varies depending on where you are. The average paddler runs the park’s waterways between 1,000-5,000 cfs.

Historical data in terms of the highest recorded peak stages at Leatherwood Ford River Gauge since 1984:


Stage (feet)

03/28/2021 42.38
02/06/2020 39.45
09/17/2004 33.74
11/28/2011 32.05
04/23/2017 32.03
05/07/1984 31.22

In the interest of visitor safety, the rain events required the park to temporarily close river access areas and numerous other locations.

“Stream gauges provide valuable information on the flow of rivers and streams. That information helps park management make sound decisions to effectively manage natural resources, ensure visitor safety, and protect property,” said Superintendent Niki Stephanie Nicholas.

Click here for more information about stream gauges.

* A cumulative total of 9.1 in (23.1 cm) of rainfall was recorded at Clear Fork near Robbins, TN between March 25-28, 2021 (Tennessee Valley Authority; Rainfall Gauge Data)

Leatherwood Ford Gazebo before and after flood event

Leatherwood Ford Gazebo during flood event Leatherwood Ford Gazebo during flood event

Left image
Leatherwood Ford Gazebo during flood event on March 28, 2021
Credit: NPS

Right image
Leatherwood Ford Gazebo after flood event on March 31, 2021
Credit: NPS

Please use slide to view Leatherwood Ford Gazebo, before and after flood event,

Last updated: April 1, 2021

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4564 Leatherwood Road
Oneida , TN 37841


423 569-9778

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