NR 19-014: Lake Cumberland hits record lake level, begins to recede

Nashville District Public Affairs
Published Feb. 27, 2019
Lake Cumberland reaches elevation 756.52 feet Feb. 26, a new pool of record.  This is a view of Holcomb’s Landing from Wolf Creek Dam in Jamestown, Ky. (USACE photo by Misty Cravens)

Lake Cumberland reaches elevation 756.52 feet Feb. 26, a new pool of record. This is a view of Holcomb’s Landing from Wolf Creek Dam in Jamestown, Ky. (USACE photo by Misty Cravens)

JAMESTOWN, Ky. (Feb. 27, 2019) – Officials with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District announce that Lake Cumberland hit a record lake level Tuesday, Feb. 26, and Wolf Creek Dam has also reached record releases today.  Water levels are beginning to recede.

Lake Cumberland reached elevation 756.52 feet 5 a.m., Tuesday, which is the new pool of record.  The previous pool of record of 751.69 feet stood since May 1984.  The releases this morning at 8 a.m. were 59,880 cubic feet per second, which is also a record for discharge from Wolf Creek Dam.

Lake Cumberland’s water level is starting to go down, but a return to seasonal levels is expected to take months.  The Corps continues to release significant amounts of water at Wolf Creek Dam in order to regain storage capacity in the reservoir. Impacts are expected in areas near the river downstream, especially in the Cumberland River reach in Kentucky from Rowena to Burkesville.

“I want to commend the Nashville District water managers and operations personnel who have managed this historic lake level and dam releases,” said Lt. Col. Cullen Jones, Nashville District commander.  “The work is not done as high releases will continue in order to lower Lake Cumberland and there will continue to be impacts downstream of Wolf Creek Dam.”

Releasing water at or near 60,000 cfs means that water will completely fill the river channel downstream of the dam.  Coupled with rainfall runoff these releases are expected to impact areas near the river and cause some backwater with other small streams that run into the river.

Since Lake Cumberland headwater reached elevation 707.13 feet Dec. 15, 2018, the Wolf Creek watershed has received 23.5 inches of rainfall and the reservoir has stored more than 858 billion gallons of water, enough to stack 377 miles of water over a football field or fill 1.3 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Since Feb. 7, when Lake Cumberland headwater dipped to a monthly low of 724.49 feet, the Wolf Creek basin on average has received 11.5 inches of rainfall and the reservoir has stored over 587 billion gallons of water, enough to stack 258 miles over a football field (above the International Space Station's orbit of 254 miles above the earth) or fill almost 900,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

During this high water event, Wolf Creek Dam performed as designed.  The dam is closely monitored by Nashville District dam safety staff through visual observation, as well as through evaluation of critical instrumentation data.  Dam Safety staff continues to monitor the structure closely.

Typical operations at Lake Cumberland allow the reservoir elevation to fluctuate in the hydropower pool, which spans between elevations 673 and 723.  The flood control pool, which is used to store excess rainfall and is to be released as downstream conditions allow, spans from elevation 723 to 760.  The historical median elevation for Feb. 27 is elevation 710.

Public safety remains a high priority and the Corps of Engineers is working with state officials to communicate with land owners downstream and to get the word out about the higher releases.  The Nashville District is communicating with the Louisville District Emergency Management Operations Center and they are in turn communicating with Kentucky Emergency Management.

Residents can contact emergency managers for Russell County at 270-343-2112, Ext. 1402; Clinton County at 606-387-8636; Cumberland County at 270-864-2511, Ext. 339; Wayne County at 606-348-3302; and Monroe County at 270-487-5505 for more information about the increased releases at Wolf Creek Dam.

For more information about how the Nashville District operates the Cumberland River Reservoir System, see the Water Management Education Series at

As necessary, news and information regarding water management and flood operations will be made available on the district’s website at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter at

Bill Peoples
Lee Roberts

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