A lake made famous by 1987’s “Dirty Dancing” is something of a capricious mistress.
According to The Guardian’s Susan Harlan, visiting Mountain Lake doesn’t necessarily mean there will any lake to speak of when you get there.
Nestled in Pembroke, Virginia, is Mountain Lake Lodge, which the report reminds was entitled Kellerman’s Resort for the film that featured Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.
Harlan states there still remains a treasure trove of film nostalgia, including the dining room that featured one brilliant exhibition of ballroom dancing.
However, one important aspect seems to wax and wane throughout the years, which means taking a dip in the nearby lake is something of an issue for tourists.
Before we get to the problematic water levels, let’s remind you of the moment Baby danced out of that corner of hers:
Harlan writes that the local lake is an inconsistent mess when it comes to water levels: “But today, Mountain Lake is nothing more than a reddish-brown pit, only partially filled with water. The lake’s water levels have fluctuated dramatically in the 30 years since the film. It first dropped in 1999, and returned to its normal levels in 2003. In 2006, it dropped again, and emptied completely for several days, leaving behind dead and rotting fish. From 2008 to 2012, it was mostly empty.”
A video posted to the lodge’s website explains the peculiar phenomenon:
While it’s little consolation if you were hoping to take a swim in the lake, Dr. John Cawley of Roanoke College explains in the above video that this is truly a rare occurrence.
Cawley states: “The Mountain Lake basin is absolutely unique not only in Appalachia but in the entire world.”
Dr. Cawley continues, “This lake basin is the only one in the entire planet that goes through this sort of cyclicity and this sort of plumbing system.”
As the above video and report state, this is a natural feature that helps rejuvenate the lake by flushing sediment away every so often.
Cawley continues, via The Guardian: “When the lake drains – when it actually empties out – it is cleaning itself by moving sediment that has accrued in the bottom of the lake down through that rather complex plumbing system to actually make the lake bigger, deeper, and to keep it clean.”
And the lake seems to have a mind of its own. Harlan states that effort was made to plug various holes, only to see the lake drain through another opening the very next year.
All is not lost, because there is still plenty to enjoy if you are a fan of the film, such as the “Housemans’ white latticed bungalow (now called ‘Baby’s Cabin’),” via Harlan.
And Mountain Lake Lodge boasts various activities that will make sightseeing, despite a possibly dry lakebed well, worth your time.
If all else fails, you can stare out into the small valley and consider that you witness to a truly one-of-a-kind experience.
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