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John W. Flannagan Dam & Reservoir

Huntington District
Published Jan. 5, 2024
John W. Flannagan Dam

View of lake and sky

Reservations, Fees & Passes

Campground Fee:
$24 per night  (Peak Season) - Tent only / Non-Electrict
$28 per night  (Peak Season) -  RV / Electrict

Day Use Fee:
$80 per day (Peak Season) - Group Electric Shelter

Authorized by Congress in the Flood control Act of 1938, and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1961, John W. Flannagan Dam and Reservoir is a part of the Big Sandy flood protection system. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers designed and supervised construction of the dam and now operates it for public benefits.

Construction of the dam, spillway, and outlet works began in 1960, and was completed by 1964. The dam is 250 feet high and 916 feet long. The earth-filled dam is constructed of rock with a central clay core, which prevents water from passing through the dam. A 1,145-acre lake is formed behind the dam with almost 40 miles of shoreline. South of the dam is the emergency spillway. The spillway contains six 42-foot by 38-foot gates used to control high water and prevent the lake from flowing over the top of the dam. The outlet works consist of an intake structure and an outlet tunnel. The 262-foot-high intake structure is located north of the dam, and contains 8 foot by 4-foot gates which control the amount of water released into Pound River.

Built primarily for flood control, the lake surface is kept at an elevation of 1,396 feet above sea level for recreation during the summer. During the fall, the lake is lowered 16 feet to hold additional water from winter and spring runoff. When flooding occurs, the gates in the intake structure are closed to the minimum level. The water, which runs off from the 221 square mile drainage basin behind the dam, is stored in the reservoir to protect life and property downstream. When the danger of downstream flooding has passed, the intake structure gates are opened to lower the reservoir. Opening the gates is coordinated with other dams on the Big Sandy and Ohio Rivers as a part of a larger flood control system. The dam has prevented millions of dollars of damage in excess of the $20 million it cost to build.

Restrooms are located at the Project Office, Below Dam Area, Junction Area, Cranesnest Area #1, and #3, Lower Twin Area, Spillway Area, and Pound River Area.

During the first four full weekends in October Flannagan has whitewater releases to achieve winter pool. From the dam, the first two miles are class II rapids which progresses downstream reaching Class V + rapids. Some of the most challenging rapids in the eastern U.S. can be found while traveling through Breaks Interstate Park with names like 20 Stitches, Broken Nose and Triple Drop.

Handicapped Access
Universally Accessible Facilities are provided at the Project Office and all of the recreation areas.

Recreation Opportunities

Visitor Center
The John W. Flannagan visitor center is located at the project office and has a variety of animal mounts of local species. Rangers are available for visitors from 7:30 A.M. - 4:00 P.M. Monday through Friday.

Launch ramps for boating enthusiasts and fishermen are located at the Spillway Launch Area, Junction Area, and Cranesnest Area. Fees are charged at the Junction. Campers have launch ramps at Pound River and Lower Twin Camping Areas.

John W. Flannagan Reservoir has three campgrounds, Lower Twin, Cranesnest Areas #1 and #3 and Pound River Area all operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The three campgrounds combined have a total of 93 sites. All sites except the "Tent Only" sites have electrical hook-ups. Water tank filling and sewage dump stations are available at all campgrounds. Camping fees are charged at all sites. Camping is available from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Camping at John W. Flannagan Lake is prohibited outside of the developed campgrounds

Picnic shelters are located at the Below Dam Area and Spillway Launch Ramp Area. All shelters are available on a first come - first served basis EXCEPT WHEN RESERVED IN ADVANCE (a fee is required for reserving a shelter). Picnic shelters at the Below Dam Area may be reserved online by visiting recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777. Shelters cannot be reserved by calling the project office.

Fishing regulations may be obtained from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Hunting regulations may be obtained from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

John W. Flannagan Boat Dock is located at the Junction Area and provides visitors with docking facilities, a gas station, fishing supplies, and a snack bar.

John W. Flannagan Reservoir has no developed swimming area. Swimming around the lake is at your own risk

Bicycles are permitted on main roads and campground areas.
John W. Flannagan Pound River Area offers a horse show ring which is managed by the Cumberland Mountain Trail Riders. Shows are scheduled the second of the month, June - August. Trail Ride outings are in May and September.

Rules & Regulations

General Policies
A full list of Federal regulations that apply to all US Army Corps of Engineers properties can be found in Title 36 of the United States Code (USC). Title 36, The Rules and Regulations that Govern Corps of Engineers Water Resource Projects.

Possession of firearms in a federal facility, including locks, dams, power plants, ranger stations, buildings, switchyards, recreation facilities, warehouses, and offices is strictly prohibited. This prohibition includes the storage or transporting of a personally owned firearm in controlled access parking areas or Government vehicles, heavy equipment, boats and vessels under the operational control of the District regardless of its location. Exceptions for Federal employees are only allowed for Federal law enforcement officers or where possession of a firearm is specifically authorized by law.

Fireworks, along with explosives, firearms and other weapons are prohibited on Government Property. Detailed information can be found in Title 36, The Rules and Regulations that Govern Corps of Engineers Water Resource Projects, Section 327.13.

John W. Flannagan Dam 
192 White Water Road 
Haysi, VA 24256



  • January

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    Campers may now make their reservations 180 days in advance and picnic shelter reservations 360 days
  • April

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