Blog Post

Did you know that the second largest earthen dam in Georgia is located inside of Big Canoe?

Did you know that the second largest earthen dam in Georgia is located inside of Big Canoe?
Lake Petit under construction

The residents of Big Canoe probably don’t know just how fortunate they are to have the physical facilities that they’ve grown accustom to in Big Canoe. Take Lake Petit for example. If the dam and the lake had to be constructed today, it would run into the millions. Did you know that when it was constructed in 1972, it cost $800,000?

The official name of the dam is Petit Cove Dam. According to the dictionary, a “cove” is defined as “a recess or small valley in the side of a mountain.” Lake Petit was named for the Petit family who were some of the first settlers before the Sam Tate owned the property.

Big Canoe has a unique geographical situation that causes the property to be a self-contained drainage basin. With mountains on its perimeter, Big Canoe takes no drainage water from any other surrounding property. And virtually all water that falls within Big Canoe flows down into Petit and Disharoon drainage basins, then leaves the property by Blackwell Creek, under the covered bridge and then under Cove Road.

Building a lake of approximately 110 acres is a major engineering feat. Lake Petit is an earthen dam.  An earthen dam must be constructed with exacting mechanical and safety specifications. An earthen dam must have a precisely engineered concrete spillway to let water leave the lake safely and maintain the desired water level. For Lake Petit, the desired water level is 1635 feet above sea level.

An interesting characteristic of earthen dams is that they must have some controlled seepage through the dam to stay alive. Throughout the Petit Cove Dam are pipes laid during the construction to collect the seepage water and carry it off in a safe manner.

Interesting trivia and facts:

  • Petit Cove Dam is the second largest earthen dam in Georgia. Carter’s Dam is the largest.
  • When constructing the lake, many of the trees were left and were covered when the lake filled with water.
  • During the construction of the lake, a fuel tank truck caught on fire and burned. The charred hulk was left where it burned, rather than having the owner incur the expense of pulling the useless machine out. The truck is located somewhere where the marina area is where the boat launch is located.
  • When the water falls over the Lake Petit spillway, it’s starting on a long trip to the Gulf of Mexico. Blackwell Creek spills into other tributaries and then into the Etowah River, which flows into Allatoona Lake, and then into the Coosa River in Rome eventually flowing from there through several lakes in Alabama, until it drains into the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The lake is approximately 100 feet at its deepest around the dam.
  •  The dam’s height is 126 feet.

So how long did it take for Lake Petit to fill up? It took over a year for it to fill. A contest was held for property owners and employees to guess the day and the hour when the lake would fill. At 3:10 pm, on January 7, 1974, water trickled over the spillway and Lake Petit was born. The winners of the contest were Harry and Mary Howard, who guessed the time within 6 ½ hours.

Note: Parts of this article were taken from articles written by various authors in Smoke Signals in the 1990s. Please join the Big Canoe Historical Society Facebook group to learn more about Big Canoe’s history, fun trivia and view some great photos and videos. Be sure to join the Big Canoe Historical Society on Facebook and subscribe to the YouTube channel.

To see the construction of Lake Petit and the dam, click here: The Building of Big Canoe’s Lake and Dam.