Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tour of Morgan Falls Dam

Morgan Falls Dam in Roswell, Georgia, is located on the Chattahoochee River, 36 miles downstream from Buford Dam on Lake Lanier. These dams work together, in operation by Georgia Power and the United States Army Corps of Engineers, to regulate peak energy consumption times as well as the level of the River.  The reservoir created by Morgan Falls Dam has drastically changed the land area in and around the river. What once was a narrow river with rolling rapids, shoals and rocks, now is a wetland paradise for migrating birds, waterfowl, songbirds, shorebirds, mammals such as beaver and muskrats and numerous species of reptiles and amphibians.

Morgan Falls Dam, originally constructed in 1904, is a hydroelectric dam – with a generating capacity up to 16,800 Kilowatts. The 673 acre reservoir, known as Bull Sluice Lake (still part of the Chattahoochee River) is the area we paddle on our trips. Before each trip, we monitor the flow and level of the water to make sure Buford Dam isn’t releasing too much water too fast for a trip to occur. The releases result in a stronger current than one might expect on this calm and quiet section of the river, making it a bit challenging on occasion to paddle back upstream on CNC’s canoe programs.  It takes about 4 hours for the gallons upon gallons of water Buford Dam releases to reach Morgan Falls Dam.The Chattahoochee River, starting in Helen, GA and flowing south towards the Gulf of Mexico, is dammed 16 times making it one of the most dammed rivers in the southeast.

Our guides were lucky enough to visit Morgan Falls Dam and get a closer look at how it all flows (pun intended).  Below are two of the turbines that generate water into electricity... really - how cool is that!?


A closer look at the turbines - the water is being held behind those huge metal doors to the left in the picture!

Waiting in line to see inside the holding tank.... that door is massive!
Looking inside one of the water tanks currently being repaired
Here we are seeing INSIDE one of the tanks that holds water. This one is undergoing some repairs and needed equipment upgrades. Many of the equipment is ORIGINAL to the Dam (did I already mention it was built in 1904?). Because of the age of the equipment, it can take several months to build the new piece needed.  Much of the original equipment is no longer manufactured and has to be built when ordered. The gate at the end of the tank opens, the tank fills with water, runs the turbine and VOILA! We have POWER!! 

To see an animation of how Morgan Falls Dam generates electricity, click here!

To learn more about the Morgan Falls Dam Project by Georgia Power, click here!

An added bonus: There was a Great Blue Heron Rookery (a colony of nests) near the top level of the dam. We spotted over 10 Great Blue's squawking at each other and flying in and out of their nests. Great Blue Herons build nests or refurbish old ones in tall treetops near their feeding area.

Dam from Top Level
Kim, one of our great canoe guides, says "seeing the dam up above where water enters the screened area (before flowing into the water holding tank) was one of my favorite parts". Kim also makes a good point by reminding people people to heed the warning signs especially when the alarm sounds! Safety first on the River!

A special thanks to CNC Docent Jim Taylor who captured these great photos of our tour! 

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