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  • Writer's pictureGlinda Coleman

Short Bypass opens July 8! …But there is a wrinkle

The Short Bypass will be open to the public on Saturday, July 8 and Sunday, July 9! Yaaaay!!!!

But wait … there is a slight wrinkle in the process.

After construction delays postponed the opening of the short bypass from May to July, Duke announced the first of July that there was a problem with the continuous flow gate at the diversion dam, also known around Great Falls as, the Spillway.

The first recreation flow for the short bypass reach will run as scheduled on July 8 and 9. However, Duke Energy informed us that the rec flows scheduled for July 15 will have to be cancelled and rescheduled. That is for both the Long and Short Bypass channels.

There will be a drawdown of Great Falls Reservoir starting on July 9 after the rec flows end at 3 p.m.  A leak has been discovered in the minimum flow release gate that requires Duke to completely disassemble the gate, remove the inflatable bladder, install a new bladder and reassemble the gate. To do this, Duke will need to draw the reservoir down to approximately 10 ft below full pond. This will dry out both the long and short bypass channels (LBR and SBR).  In doing this, there is a potential for a fish kill (defined as the death of more than 25 fish) in both channels. Duke plans to draw the reservoir down slowly to minimize the chance that this will occur.


Duke plans to have the problem fixed by July 21, but depending on the extent of the problem, there is a chance that it might take a week or two longer. They do plan to have the problem fixed no later than Aug. 1.

An updated recreational flow calendar (as of June 7) has not been released yet, but Duke has assured us that a new calendar will be on their website as soon as possible.

I drove over to the Canal Street Access Area today just to see the finished product. There are 34 parking places available in the gravel lot. This parking area is not paved like the Nitrolee Access Area and it does not have a restroom facility. But it is in a beautiful spot and even if you don’t have any intention of running the short bypass, it is a lovely area to visit.

The trail that leads to the kayak launch is a steep one. But it winds down the hill towards the Great Falls Reservoir and gives some spectacular views of the water and surrounding area. However, it is steep, and I mean really steep.

The kayak launch will give people another access to the Great Falls Reservoir in addition to the Nitrolee Access Area for flat water paddling and it will also give you boat access to Mountain Island where the portage trail for the short bypass is located. It is just over a mile long and is supposed to be a beautiful trail. I have only been on a couple of hundred feet of the lower part of the trail but I am looking forward to traversing the entire length. Those wishing to go into the whitewater will have to travel down a series of steps on Mountain Island to reach it.

Just to remind people, the Long Bypass and the Short Bypass are intended for experienced whitewater paddlers. The Long Bypass has Class 2 and 3 rapids and the Short Bypass has class 2, 3, and 4 rapids. Those classes require considerable experience in whitewater. It is not for the novice. Just recently there were some people who had to be rescued because they took tubes down through the “paper clip” and ended up far downstream. Fortunately, they did not receive serious injuries. Those are some serious rapids out there.

The whitewater is just one of the many natured based recreation opportunities that will be coming to Great Falls over the next few years. Things are coming together but it will take a little time for it all to be the vision that the folks more than 20 years ago compiled.

Come check out the new access area over the next few weeks and please be safe.

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