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Caring for a Natural Landmark – Kanuga Lake

02.20.2019 - Kanuga Stories
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Kanuga Lake—one of the most iconic natural landmarks on campus—has been a beautiful backdrop to summer guest periods, conferences, and lazy afternoons. Kanuga as we know it today exists partly because of the lake.

At the turn of the 20th century, Kanuga Lake belonged to the Kanuga Lake Club and was quadruple the size it is today. The lake was created when businessman George Stephens, the owner of Kanuga Lake Club, dammed several streams near Little Mud Creek Basin. As part of the Kanuga Lake Club, the lake provided relief during the stifling hot summers with recreational fishing, swimming and boating.

All was well until the great flood of 1916. The torrential rainfall that affected Hendersonville and Asheville also burst the lake’s dam. The dam was eventually rebuilt by March 1917, but the result was a significant decrease in size. Kanuga Lake became the modest 30-acre lake it is today.

The smaller lake signaled a change in times as the Kanuga Lake Club struggled financially and was eventually sold to the dioceses of the Carolinas in 1928. Today, as part of our mission of sustainability and stewardship, we care for the lake with a plan meticulously implemented by the property department and environmental projects teams.

This year, the lake level was lowered so several areas could be improved and various projects completed. When guests arrive on campus, they’ll notice an improved dock and a wider beach. “This year, we widened the sandy beach area by 24 feet to give everyone more beach space to enjoy,” says Ricky Varnadore, Vice President of Property.

Another improvement was dredging the area where the boats are docked. “We took out approximately six inches of built-up sediment,” says Ricky. “Now it will be much easier for guests to take the boats out.”

While the lake level was down, it provided an opportunity to study the bog and remove invasive species from the lake. “We studied the effect of draining the lake on the groundwater in and around the bog,” says Clint DeWitt, Environmental Projects Manager. “This gave us clues as to how our bog was formed.” With the water levels down, Clint’s team was also able to control aquatic invasive species—such as certain lily pads—and remove woody vegetation that was preventing rare and endangered plant species from getting adequate sunlight.

Upon arrival, guests should appreciate the improvements to the lake immediately. “Guests will notice the new dock and drainage system, and hopefully fewer lily pads encroaching on the swimming areas,” says Clint. “Our main goal was to have the lake back to its beautiful self.”