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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:
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
Last updated: April 1, 2021