The Brogan Tunnel
Carvins Cove Boat Launch Lot to Tinker Creek tunnel and beyond on the fire road on the northern side of the reservoir, and back. 8 miles.
This walk was occasioned by the previous week's, when we crossed Tinker Creek on the Appalachian Trail just south of U. S. 220 at Daleville. The creek, fed by the weekend rains, was fuller than we'd ever seen it, rushing its way south toward Roanoke and into the Roanoke River.
The next day in the Roanoke paper was a piece on the status of area reservoirs, in which an official from the Western Virginia Water Authority talked about Tinker Creek continuing to help replenish Carvins Cove. I was puzzled enough to get out the topo map and verify that Tinker Creek flows along one side of formidable Tinker Mountain, and Carvins Cove is on the other, with no visible connection whatsoever to Tinker Creek.
The explanation, with specifics courtesy of Sarah Baumgardner at the water authority: a 6,528-foot, six-foot-diameter tunnel through the mountain.
So our goal for this hiking day became a walk to see where "Tinker Creek" spills into Carvins Cove.
The Brogan tunnel was completed in 1966 and is operational as a reservoir-filler only when Tinker Creek has reached a specified level of flow; thus the continued strong rush of water – far downstream from the tunnel – that we saw where the creek passes under the AT, even as water was being diverted into Carvins Cove as well.
The walk to the mouth of the tunnel is along the fire road. We've done this stretch several times on bicycles – on the way to the Sawmill Branch Trail up to the AT – and agreed it is much more pleasant on foot; its climbs are clearly minor when you walk – think of a climb up Tinker Mountain on the AT or on the Andy Lane, for example, versus little hills along Carvins Cove. (We threatened, on our last ride of the road, to chuck the bikes into the reservoir upon finishing.)
With new-hiker Cookie the five-and-half-month-old puppy in tow, we made good time on the approximately 1.7-mile walk to the point in the road where there is a left to head down to the water. It is at the end of this road – less than a quarter mile – that the tunnel empties into a semi-circle-shaped concrete bowl that creates a short falls as the water spills over and on into Carvins Cove. At this spot as well as at smaller feeder streams along the way, the reservoir was taking on serious water, apparently replenishing still, a week after the rains.
There are suggestions of a trail along the perimeter of Carvins Cove, and we walked along those and at times along the bank created by low water until we found a good sunny spot for lunch. From there, we followed a small stream up from the edge of the reservoir, back to the road and back to the parking lot.