North Toe River freed of crumbling dam

A decrepit dam is being torn down along the North Toe River near Spruce Pine this week, clearing the way for a restoration of natural aquatic habitat.

The dam demolition removes a barrier to river migration of aquatic species, obstructions have led to a decline in some species, including rare and endangered ones.

“The North Toe is a wonderful river and taking this useless dam out makes it better,” remarked Cliff Vinson, the coordinator for the Blue Ridge Resource Conservation and Development Council, which is organizing the effort.

The cost of removal is $202,500 provided by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the North Carolina Division of Water Resources.

The dam was constructed for power generation in 1918, providing electricity to the town of Spruce Pine and a local factory. It was abandoned by the late 1940s or early 1950s, then partially dynamited in 1960 to clear silt which had accumulated upstream. What remains are massive slabs of concrete and scattered pieces of the dam’s metal inner workings.

“It’s not very often a dam comes out of a river,” remarked Anita Goetz, a biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The dam removal will also make the river safer for paddlers. The partially crumbled dam creates a powerful hydraulic that claimed a boater’s life in 1983. Boaters that portage around the structure have to skirt an active railroad along the shore.

The Naturalist's Corner

  • Fingers still crossed
    Fingers still crossed Status of the Lake Junaluska eagles remains a mystery, but I still have my fingers crossed for a successful nesting venture. There was some disturbance near the nest a week or so ago — tree trimming on adjacent property — and for a day or…

Back Then with George Ellison

  • The woodcock — secretive, rotund and acrobatic
    The woodcock — secretive, rotund and acrobatic While walking stream banks or low-lying wetlands, you have perhaps had the memorable experience of flushing a woodcock — that secretive, rotund, popeyed, little bird with an exceedingly long down-pointing bill that explodes from underfoot and zigzags away on whistling wings and just barely managing…
Go to top