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Hidden Underwater Town Revealed After Lake Water Levels Drop

Falling water levels at a popular lake in North Carolina exposed the ruins of old communities after drought gripped the region.

Chatham County has grown consistently drier as the summer progress. The most recent update to the U.S. Drought Monitor Map shows that more than 15 percent of the county is categorized as struggling with severe drought, with more than 82 percent of the county struggling with moderate drought. The dry weather has caused lake levels at Jordan Lake in Moncure, North Carolina, to fall by more than 4 feet since mid-summer.

The falling levels have revealed materials and communities that were covered by water in the 1960s when the B. Everett Jordan dam was built following several flooding disasters in the New Hope valley area. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages the lake.

Homes and farmsteads dominated the area before the lake existed and were covered by the man-made lake in the 1960s. Falling lake levels have since revealed the underwater homes, and tourists are flocking to the area to get a chance to observe the ruins of what once was. Roadbeds with asphalt still on them as well as foundation materials from homes built between the late 1800s and mid 1900s are among the items revealed, according to park ranger Jon Bannerman.

Drought Reveals Hidden Underwater Ruins At Lake
A shoreline that would normally be submerged exposed at Lake Wylie on October 20, 2007, in North Carolina. Water levels at Jordan Lake in North Carolina have fallen enough to reveal artifacts from a historic town.

Bannerman told Newsweek that the exposed roadbeds are in such good condition that tourists can walk out across the bottom of the lake in some parts.

“It’s a good access point for folks that are looking for a lot of these old homesites,” Bannerman said. “Anywhere you see a roadbed, if you look hard enough, there’s probably going to be some evidence of foundation—scattered bricks or scattered blocks.

However, Bannerman also warned there is “definitely some danger” posed to the tourists venturing into the lakebed. “It’s definitely not that safe to walk around some of these old home sites,” he said.

Not only are there exposed materials that could injure a visitor, but the silt that is typically at the bottom of the lake is very slick and poses a slipping hazard.

It’s not the first time the lake has fallen low enough to reveal the ruins. The last time the water levels were low enough for tourists to catch a glimpse of the old buildings was in January 2018. The lowest the lake has ever been was in the mid-1980s, when levels dropped below 208 feet.

Other U.S. lakes have experienced similar fates this summer as drought gripped swaths of the country. For example, water levels fell far enough to reveal old pecan groves at Lake Travis in Texas, as well as the remains of a concrete plant that was covered by the lake decades ago.

Nearby in Belton, Texas, people worried that severe drought would expose the ghost town of Sparta, which exists below Lake Belton, although the lake has never reached a low-enough level in the past.