Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Milburnie Dam Removal

Only one dam remains to stop the run of striped bass and American shad to Falls Lake near Raleigh, NC. The previous dam was called Milburnie and it had been controversial for years. The dam was built around 1900 to power a paper mill. The dam has barely been used for decades. It never worked well and over the years it became less serviceable. The dam was a scenic landmark and a decent fishing spot but created several negative environmental impacts as well as safety issues. Many people died trying to swim near the dam. 
 A decision was made to tear the dam down and the deconstruction started last December. The site is doing historical documentation of the deconstruction. They have drone footage and tons of photos. Watching the progress of the project is very interesting.

A primary problem with the dam was the sediment building behind it. The development around Raleigh has polluted the river and made sandy beaches where there shouldn't be any.
This is a view from behind the dam after it was turned off. you can see the island of sediment that was building up. 
It's strange to not see water coming over the dam.
You rarely could ever get this close to it.
You can see how the bottom of the river should be. Instead of sand it should be rocky like the features in front of the dam.
Hopefully years of the river running fast will redistribute sediment. I think the removal of the dam is a good thing but part of me has a hard time watching it be destroyed. 
Part of it is I appreciate the work it must of took to create this mass to hold back a river. This feature is truly a landmark and I'm sure people have lived a lifetime fishing, picnicking and swimming at the base of it. The next generation will never even know it existed. 
It's amazing how different the view looks every time a feature is removed.
You can see what actually starts to look like a fully connected river in the picture above.
It's really neat to see the progression. The dam is gone but development continues around Raleigh and personally I think that's a greater threat to the river than the dam ever was. It will be interesting to see the effect the dam removal has on wildlife and the fishery. There are native species that reside in this river and nowhere else in the world. I'm hoping the shad and striped bass return in greater numbers and the river heals itself. Only time will tell. 

You can learn more about the history of the dam and view all of the photos shared here plus more at


  1. Replies
    1. Falls Lake is the last one. It will never be removed. Falls Lake is a water reservoir and drinking supply.

  2. Nice report. The river will heal, especially if the city can establish a protected corridor along its banks.

  3. Very interesting post Kev. The process of building a dam is interesting. The tearing down process even more so. I imagine how nice that area will look in a few years without any help from man.