Front Lake Dam

View of a large hole in a lakebed near a dam with a broken pipe in the bottom.

FAQs for Front Lake and Dam


Why did the park close Front Lake Bridge?
  • On August 9, the park closed Front Lake bridge for safety, due to drainage issues in the historic dam. Front Lake bridge was built on the spillway portion of this dam.
  • The dam, bridge, and spillway were inspected in Sept. 2022. The earthen dam on the left side of the bridge is eroding and unstable. That is why the bridge is closed and blocked off. Do not go into these closed areas.
What happened to the lake/dam? Does the park inspect the dam? How did this happen?
  • Front Lake dam was built in the 1850's. It includes a stone spillway (wall the water flows over, to keep the lake level) and earthen banks on the left and right sides of the spillway.

  • The earthen bank on the left (“park”) side has a history of water seepage and repairs because it was built on sand, not bedrock. The right (“parking lot”) side and the stone spillway were built on bedrock and have not had issues.
  • The dam is inspected regularly. Some seepage is expected and for years the amount of seepage was deemed within acceptable limits. However, over time, water had been undercutting the left side. The earthen dam breached in August 2022.
  • Corrugated metal pipes, installed in the 1980’s and used to convey water from the lakebed through the dam, contributed to extra seepage as the pipes rusted and decayed. CMPs were once commonly used for dam repairs. They are no longer used due to issues created in dams like Front Lake’s.

How will the park fix the dam?
Repairs will reinforce washed out areas on the left (park side) of the earthen dam and replace the rusted corrugated metal pipe. The planned repairs are based on newer standards. They will slow down water seepage and filter out sediment. A more robust inspection and monitoring process will be implemented to catch small problems early, before they become catastrophic failures.

When will the park fix the dam?
The park doesn’t have firm dates yet. Please check www.nps.gov/carl or the park Facebook page for updates.

How will people visit the park during these repairs?
  • The park will continue to shuttle visitors from Front Lake parking lot into the park on days the Sandburg Home is open.
Why were corrugated metal pipes used to convey water?
  • Corrugated metal pipes were the industry standard for dams in the 1980’s. They are no longer used due to issues created in dams like Front Lake’s.
Has Front Lake ever been drained before?
  • The lake has been drained in the past by previous owners, in order to do repairs. The NPS drained front Lake in the 1970’s, to repair the dam, and again in 2010 when the gate valve was replaced.
When was Front Lake dam built? What was it made of?
  • Front Lake dam was built in the 1850’s. It includes a stone spillway (wall the water flows over, to keep the lake level) and earthen banks on the left and right sides of the spillway. Front Lake bridge is built upon the stone spillway.
When was Front Lake bridge built?
Since Front Lake was dammed in the 1850’s there has been some type of bridge on top of the spillway. The NPS has rebuilt the Front Lake bridge several times since the park was established in 1968. The current bridge was extensively repaired in December 2021.

Where does the detour go?
  • The detour goes on the unpaved .4 mile forest tail around Front Lake. Visitors then walk 1/3 mile up a steeply graded hill to the Sandburg Home and farm.
Can I walk through the lakebed to access the park?
  • No. The lakebed is unstable. Do not walk through the lakebed.

I CAN’T WALK UP THAT STEEP HILL.
HOW CAN I VISIT THE PARK?


SHUTTLE
  • Free Shuttle: The best option is to use the shuttle service, which transports visitors from the main parking lot, on Little River Road, to the Sandburg Home and goat farm. Visitors who need assistance up this hill are strongly encouraged to visit when the shuttle is running.
  • Shuttle Schedule: It runs on the days the Sandburg Home is open - Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, from 10am to 4pm. The shuttle will run until Saturday December 31, 2022. The shuttle will pick up from the main parking lot every 20 minutes and make brief stops at the goat barn and at the restrooms near the Sandburg home. Visitors who need the shuttle should gather at “Shuttle Stop” signs in these locations. The signs list pick up times for each location.
  • Hikers' Lot: Visitors may drive to the 24-space gravel hikers’ parking lot located 0.5 mile from the main parking lot on Little River Road and then walk .4 mile up a slight slope to access park buildings, restrooms, and hiking trails.
Why are is the park providing a shuttle from the main parking lot?
  • Closure of Front Lake Bridge blocked access to the normal shuttle stop, located on the “park” side of the bridge.
When will the shuttle end? What happens after the shuttle stops running?
  • The shuttle will operate until December 31, 2022, through the busy fall and holiday season.
  • The park is determining options now. Please check www.nps.gov/carl or the park Facebook page for updates.
  • Visitors coming to Sandburg when the shuttle is not running should call 828-707-8125 upon arrival to the park. Limited options may be available.
I like the shuttle from the parking lot. Will it keep running?
  • The steep hill can be difficult for many visitors. The park is looking into options to improve access into the park from Front Lake. If you like this shuttle service from Front Lake parking lot, please contact the superintendent and let her know: Polly_Angelakis@nps.gov.
How much does it cost to use the shuttle?
  • The shuttle is free. The park is grateful to the Friends of Carl Sandburg at Connemara for funding this service.
Who is providing the shuttle and driver? What did the shuttle cost?
  • The Friends of Carl Sandburg at Connemara contracted with The Trolley Company to provide a shuttle and driver.
What are my options when the shuttle isn’t running? I can’t walk up that steep hill.
  • Hikers Lot: Visitors may drive to the 24-space gravel hikers’ parking lot located 0.5 mile from the main parking lot on Little River Road and then walk .4 mile up a slight slope to access park buildings, restrooms, and hiking trails.
  • Visitors coming to Sandburg when the shuttle is not running or those who can’t walk from the Hikers Lot should call 828-707-8125 upon arrival to the park. Limited options may be available.
ON FOOT

I am able to walk up that hill. What are my options?
  • On foot: To access park buildings, restrooms, and trails on foot, visitors will walk an additional .4 mile around Front Lake, and then walk 1/3 mile up a steeply graded hill to the Sandburg Home and farm.
  • Hikers Lot: Visitors may drive to the 24-space gravel hikers’ parking lot located 0.5 mile from the main parking lot on Little River Road and then walk .4 mile up a slight slope to access park buildings, restrooms, and hiking trails.

LAKE HEALTH


What will happen to the fish in Front Lake? Can you move them?
  • The park has been working with an aquatic ecologist since August due to concerns over the aquatic life. Most aquatic life will either go dormant or swim up or downstream to other bodies of water. Some will become food for other wildlife. Others, unfortunately, will die due to poor oxygen levels. The park had planned to install an aerator to help with oxygen levels, but the lake drained too quickly for an aerator to be feasible. Moving the fish isn't an option, as doing so could spread disease to other bodies of water.
What fish are in the lake(s)? Any threatened or endangered species?
  • Some common species are blue gill and grass carp. There are no threatened or endangered species in any lake in the park.

Last updated: December 7, 2022

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Mailing Address:

81 Carl Sandburg Lane
Flat Rock , NC 28731

Phone:

828 693-4178

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