Flood Control and the Annual Mud Plains of Ravenna


There are few community staples in Ravenna as well known as West Branch State Park and the West Branch Reservoir. The reservoir, built in 1965 by the Army Corps of Engineers, is a gathering place of hunters, fishers, boaters and nearly every other type of outdoor enthusiast that can be found in northeastern Ohio.

Driving down State Route 14 motorists are use to seeing the pristine green and brown water shimmering from the wake of boats.  But every fall, like clockwork, the outer fingers of the reservoir take on a new muddy, eventually snowy, look.

West Branch, along with dozens of other water sources, is part of a lake drawdown network, a system of removing water from surface sources and redistributing it as necessary.

In the case of West Branch the Ohio Division of Natural Resources (ODNR) removed four and a half feet of water from the reservoir for “flood control” according to the ODNR website. Bringing the standard pool elevation down from 985.1 feet to 980.6 feet.

That doesn’t seem like much, and admittedly those numbers aren’t impressive, but the result of the shift in elevation is.

I went back to West Branch this past week after a month long reprieve and was shocked by how low the water had gotten this year. So, I did what I usually do in these situations and I grabbed my camera.

While taking photos standing where I would usually be in waist high water the biggest question I had is, why? Well, the answer is surprisingly simple and is the reason why West Branch is drawn down every November.

Flood control. Most surface water sources in northeastern Ohio are unable to handle the combination of winter thaw and spring rains at normal capacity. However, with a few feet drained off enough space is made to mitigate the potential for flooding in the surrounding areas.

The photo above was taken from a boat ramp, the same boat ramp these pieces of trash came from.


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