Dam, Dam, Dam

You know how the saying goes,  “Dams – can’t live with ’em, can’t live…” Well, that’s it. Can’t live with ’em. Aside from occasionally flooding the Greenway and interrupting a bike ride or walk, most people are oblivious to the height and flow of the Neuse River. We, on the other hand, live and die by it. So, since we’ve been riding the emotional river flow rollercoaster that is Spring, we thought we’d drop a little knowledge on you that you can use to impress people at dinner parties.

Things to know:

  • The flow of the river is measured in CFS (Cubic Feet per Second). In the last few years we’ve seen flow levels from 70cfs (most of this winter) to 6,000cfs (After Hurricane Matthew).
  • The river stays within its banks until about 3500cfs. Greater than that and it will start flooding the Greenway and surrounding areas.
  • The flow of the Upper Neuse River is almost entirely controlled by the Falls Dam. There are so few creeks dumping into the top of the river, that unless we have a major rain event, the flow doesn’t really change until a change is made at the dam.
  • The dam is used as a big drain plug for Falls Lake (Think of that little drain in your bathtub that keeps it from overflowing).
  • The goal is to keep Falls Lake at an elevation of 251.5. In the last few years we’ve seen it as high as 261 (Nine and a half feet higher than it should be).
  • Flows are increased or reduced based on a number of factors including, but not limited to:
    • Lake height
    • Downstream flow (Places like Smithfield, Goldsboro, Kinston)
    • Fish spawning
    • Weather forecast
    • Maintenance on the dam

Check out this example:


  1. Big rain event last week caused Falls Lake to rise to 3-ish feet above where it is supposed to be, so they opened the dam to start draining the lake.
  2. Big storm in the forecast for earlier this week, so they shut the dam down to prevent flooding downstream.
  3. Storm passed and we didn’t get as much rain as was in the forecast, but Falls Lake is still too high, so they opened the dam again to get it back down.