Atlantis Lite

On January 31, 2013 · 10 Comments

I’ve been thinking about towns submerged by reservoirs. I don’t know why that suddenly came to mind or why it fascinated me without prompting. It’s one of those things.

This is also a topic that interests many other people apparently. They’ve written all sorts of definitive lists of underwater ghost towns. I won’t replicate those definitive works. One can review them later if interested. It’s a surprisingly common phenomenon. People need water. Towns are flooded. I’ll simply provide a few examples spread across the globe that I’ve explored via satellite.

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first, an instance of scale so incredibly audacious that it cannot escape unmentioned.

View Larger Map

It’s difficult to even conceive of a situation where nearly 1.25 million people had to relocate. That happened in the years leading up to 2008 because of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtzee River in China. To put that in perspective, that’s like compelling everyone in Rhode Island or everyone within the city limits of Birmingham, England, or everyone in Adelaide, Australia to pack up and move to a new home.

Old House & Shed
SOURCE: Valley_Guy on Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

I’ve been impressed by Old Adaminaby in New South Wales, Australia which was submerged below the waters of Lake Eucumbene in 1957. The town moved nearby to higher ground before the waters inundated lower-lying areas (map). The only remnants left behind were a few ruins that rise above the waters periodically during protracted droughts.

The Internet believes that the most significant example in the United States involved four towns in Massachusetts submerged by the Quabbin Reservoir (map). I base that solely on the fact that this seemed to be the most common result whenever I consulted the major search engines. Four towns that had been around since the late Eighteen or early Nineteenth Century (Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott) were all flooded behind the Winsor Dam and Goodnough Dike by 1939.

Bluffton, Texas rises again
merindab on Flickr via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license

I’m more partial to Bluffton, Texas, though. Like the example from Australia, the original Bluffton townsite rose from the dead during a recent drought. Ordinarily it rested beneath the placid waters of Lake Buchanan, a reservoir along the Colorado River of Texas, where its been submerged since the late 1930’s (map).

I guess I’m a sucker for those towns that are drowned, only to claw their way back into the visible world in zombie-like fashion when waters recede. I could probably write an entire article based entirely on submerged towns that have reappeared because of recent droughts. There are several others in the United States that I found with minimal searching: Monument City, Indiana (included news video); Corydon, Pennsylvania; and Los Arboles, New Mexico all rose from their watery graves, along with townsites in many other parts of the world.

View Larger Map

Let’s feature an example from Russia because loyal reader "January First-of-May" hails from there and has had to endure so may articles on 12MC focused on just about every location other than Russia. Here you go, January First-of-May. This one’s for you.

Mologa in the Yaroslavl Oblast was flooded in the 1940’s as a result of the creation of the Rybinsk Reservoir at the confluence of Mologa and Volga Rivers. Allegedly 130,000 people lived in Mologa and had to be relocated, while about three hundred residents refused to leave and drowned. Joseph Stalin didn’t mess around.

Oddly enough, Google Maps actually labeled the ghost town. Even thought its underwater. Even though it hasn’t existed since the 1940’s.

View Larger Map

I haven’t forgotten about the United Kingdom either. There are plenty of examples in the UK, too. How about Ladybower Reservoir in Derbyshire? The little English villages of Ashopton, Derwent Woodlands Church and Derwent Hall all found themselves on the wrong side of the dam and succumbed to the waves in 1944. In Wales, Capel Celyn disappeared too, thanks to the Llyn Celyn Reservoir (map).

The list goes on and on.

On January 31, 2013 · 10 Comments

10 Responses to “Atlantis Lite”

  1. This is one that hits home personally since I live in a valley where numerous villages were flooded out by dam construction, and friends and family members lost their homes and farms. And, working at the archives here, every day I’m hit with it. Every autumn when the lake goes back down to its original level and exposes the sand where the old townsites used to be is still a slap in the face to many Arrow Lakes residents even 45 years later.

    That being said, at low water it’s a very surreal landscape to walk about. For kids who grew up in the valley after 1968, most of them have probably whiled away many a day in the playgrounds formed by the exposed sands. There are some days where it seems you can just walk out into the water forever. Occasionally you still find relics in the sand (although most of them have been picked off). While 45 years have managed to wash away much of the preexisting landscape, you can still see the old highway bed pop out of the water in a few places, and long-gone villages and lots still show up on maps occasionally.

  2. Kevin says:

    Dana, MA is not fully submerged- you can see the outline of the old town green in this aerial shot:

    There are walking tours available twice a year (I think). I’m dying to go on one. I believe the roads, that are left anyways, in the town are actually maintained by some branch of the Mass government. The whole story of those 4 towns is fascinating- to me anyways.

  3. Philip Newton says:

    Speaking of towns being relocated, do you have an article about towns making room for open-pit mining?

    I read an article about that in western Germany (in the Ruhr area), where lignite quarrying has displaced some towns. And I think there’s an example at the CZDEPL tripoint.

  4. Pfly says:

    One of the sadder for me is Tellico Dam, TN, which drowned the sites of a bunch of once-major Cherokee towns including Chota (once the “capital” of the Overhill Cherokee), Tanasi (from which the name “Tennessee” comes from), Toqua (an ancient town that long predated the Cherokee and the dominant town in the area in pre-Columbian times), Tomotley, Citico, Mialoquo and Tuskegee (birthplace of Sequoyah). Granted these places were more archaeological sites than towns when the waters rose, but still. Also, if you visit this area there is very little about the drowned ancient Cherokee town sites–rather there is a full fledged “memorial” and reconstructed “Fort Loudoun”–a British fort built near the Cherokee towns. Sigh…

    Something similar with The Dalles Dam on the Columbia River, though with even less memorialization than one finds on the Little Tennessee River…

  5. wangi says:

    Lake Sakakawea

  6. Fritz Keppler says:

    Zapata, Texas was also submerged by the rising waters of the Falcon International Reservoir on the Rio Grande between Texas and Tamaulipas, Mexico. The town (actually an unincorporated CDP) relocated onto higher ground upon dam closure in 1953, but it lost its bridge across the river, so there is no longer a legal way to cross directly from Zapata County to the estado of Tamaulipas.

  7. Drake says:

    There are lots of ancient sunken cities around the Med. and Black seas. About 10 years ago Herakleion, Canopus, and Menouthis were round off the coast of Egypt, believed to have been destroyed and sunken in the 7th or 8th century A.D. after earthquakes. Lots of little neolithic settlements have been discovered that were sunken near the Black Sea after the sea levels rose following the end of the ice age, not sure if any of them have been named. The ultimate would have to be the settlements discovered along the bottom of the Med. which were flooded when the “dam” broke at Gibralter and flooded it.

  8. Rp says:

    Very interesting. As a kid I lived near Fairfield, Missouri, one of several small towns submerged by Truman Lake.,_Missouri

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