Monday, December 3, 2012

News, a Return to Blog and a Lake Update!

Hi folks! It sure has been a while since our last blog post, we hope you've been keeping up with us on the Facebook and Twitter sites! You may have read the recent article in the Roanoke Times on Mountain Lake, and we'd like to go ahead and share just a few tidbits of the new happenings on the horizon for the Mountain. Firstly, please understand that the Mountain Lake management team will share announcements and a press release addressing the 5-year revitalization plan for the property at the turn of the new year. These internal statements are your best source for the facts and exciting details as developments are solidified. 


An important pre-announcement for the Facebook site:

Two Facebook sites will be merged in to one for Mountain Lake in the near future. Please follow and "like" the current Mountain Lake Hotel page for all of your Mountain Lake news, including the types of posts previously designated to the Conservancy-specific page. The Mountain Lake Conservancy page will be merged to form one single page for Mountain Lake! We are working on the changing the permanent name for this page currently.

The Lakeview building no longer

If you haven't been on the Mountain in the past month or so, you will find that the Lakeview building is no longer there! This was the structure above the main parking lot and between the Activities Barn and main hotel that housed the Conservancy Visitor Center, Mountain Lake Gift Shop, Local Artisan and History shops. The Lakeview building was built in the mid-1900's and contained some of the Chestnut wood beams from the original Mountain Lake hotel! The time came when the building was beyond upkeep and repair, and for safety reasons needed to come down. The Mountain Lake gift shop was relocated to the Spring House building just above, and the Conservancy office is now located in the bottom floor of the main hotel near the executive offices (Winter hours are Monday - Friday, 8am to 4pm).

Permanent plans for the now empty space as well as re-locations of these shops are under review and to-be-determined!

Winter Volunteer Opportunities & Trail Use

If you and a friend or your family are interested in volunteering with the Conservancy on a few trail maintenance projects, please let us know! More details can be found on the MLC website. Opportunities include touching up spray-painted trail blazes and minor clearing. Do you recreate often at Mountain Lake or know someone who does? We could use the help keeping tabs on trail conditions and downed debris, simply send an email to with "trail maint" in the subject line, and a description and location of the trail issue observed. Again, more details for winter volunteer opportunities on the Conservancy website. Thank you!
A winter sunrise from Bald Knob. Photo by guest Dan Phelps.

A reminder that the 20+ miles of Mountain Lake Conservancy trails are open year-round for hiking, mountain biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing! The Facebook site is the best resource for the most up to date reports for trail status and snow conditions. Parking is available at the trail access lot located off of rt. 613 just past the lake and near the disc golf course. Please contribute your $5.00 day use pass in the feeder tube at this lot; this is an honor system during the off-season and the funds help us maintain this parking lot and trail system for year-round use!





Lake Update

The lake has continued the same general trend for the fourth season in a row since the initial drastic drop in 2008. This year we saw the lake rise to a level not quite as high as 2011, never bringing the "T" dock down by the water to float. Despite low water levels, the continued status has allowed increasingly fascinating studies and observations of the geology and hydrology behind this unique phenomena. We've blogged some about the researchers and faculty from Radford and Virginia Tech Universities studying the lake from a new perspective influenced by geological engineering principles. The recent Roanoke Times article mentioned above discusses the seismic refraction imaging technique that has taken place in the past couple of months. The team of scientists continue to add to and improve the overall picture of what the rock bed is like underneath the lake, what the actual outflow of water through the bottom looks like, and what factors influence the amount of water retained in the lake bed.

Lake Level Nov 30, 2012

I often hear from folks "how sad" it is that the lake is so low, and I can agree to a degree of this inconvenience. More importantly, however, I encourage visitors to reflect upon the fact that this is one of those rare periods in time when you may observe the lake at this state. If and when the lake returns to full pond, there very well may not be another chance to do so within several lifetimes!!

That being said, each walk that one takes down in to that "empty" lake bed is an exploration of wonder. The oddity and beauty evoked is indescribable. The following are a series of photos and even a video all observed within the lake bed this past Friday, November 30, 2012. Perhaps these will provide a "virtual tour" of sorts in to the lake bottom (and save you the muddy venture!). We hope that this  encourages you to get outside, explore, and connect with the natural world around you wherever that may be!

Two videos linked to You Tube below-

First video is taken near the larger two depressions retaining a pond-size water. While other "bubbles" were observed that appeared to be from fish, these much larger grouped bubbles are likely coming from the piping holes.

The second video is taken just above the west-most depression that is nearly dry and shows the water flowing out through the piping hole. You can see many small, dead minnows and crayfish in the mud, and also the porous, sponge-like impression in the muck.

For reference, the lake level on Nov. 16, 2012.

A spring feeding in to the lake from the East perimeter.

Following a stream of water and looking back South towards the hotel and Bald Knob.

The larger two depressions holding a small pond size of water.

Eroded sediment in the lake bottom forms miniature canyon landscapes.

One of the two "smaller" depressions below and west of the Newport Cottage.

The west-most depression almost completely dry.

View east toward other 3 depressions.

The pole sticking out is actually about 3 feet deep in to a piping hole.

A close-up of that hole reveals a red-spotted newt and crayfish.

The cracked and drying mud of the lake bed.