Airstream Travels

There’s just so much out there…..

New Butler / Old Butler

Hey Folks,

When I came up with the idea to document my travels in a blog I also had the idea to focus on describing places that are “off the trail” so to speak.  Places a traveler would normally just pass by.  I thought about making it a regular feature.  Welcome to episode one.  We’ll take a trip to Watauga Dam and talk about Butler, TN.  Actually,  New Butler, as Old Butler sits at the bottom of Watauga Lake.

Back in 1948 the Tennessee Valley Authority finished damming up the Watauga river in Eastern Tennessee.  You can read all about it here on Wikipedia, Watauga Dam.  When the dam was completed it did what dams do and created Lake Watauga.  “Old” Butler was not old at the time.  It became Old Butler when they moved the town prior to the flood and built New Butler.  All 600 people, 125 homes, 50 business and 1,281 graves were moved to their new location.  The local beavers stayed behind to help with construction of the dam.   The old town used to flood regularly anyway,  experiencing major floods in 1867, 1886, 1901, 1902, 1916, 1924, and 1940.  They were resilient back then though and always rebuilt.  Ironically it was known as  “the town that wouldn’t drown.”  Progress, the need for cheap hydroelectric power and political policy changes did drown the town though.  There’s a very nice museum in “New Butler” and of course a web site here.  Here’s an aerial picture of the new town.  Not much to it really.  Blink and you’d miss it as they say.

"New" Butler

“New” Butler

When we think of a dam we get visions of the big ones like out West,  huge white curved behemoths that take your breath away.  Watauga Dam, not so much.  It’s an earthen dam and actually looks like part of the mountain.  Here at Wilbur dam (just down stream from the lake proper)  is where all the kilowatts come from.  I was actually a little disappointed with I first saw it.  The lake is over 280 feet deep on the other side of this though so I guess when you think about it that is a pretty stout structure.

The dam

The dam

Pepper and Shiloh don’t care about Butler, new or old.  They don’t care about all the beavers who worked from sunup to sundown to build the dam.  They’re only interested in sniffing some new turf and lounging in the sun.  My travelling companions are simple really.  For them it’s all about the present.  For me it’s about another kind of “present”, the peace and quiet of a still lake.

"The Boys"

“The Boys”

Appalachian Trail – northbound. Many a hiker has ascended these on the way to Maine

Old Butler, a couple of hundred feet below.

Old Butler, a couple of hundred feet below the surface.


December 14, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Great pictures Honey! I LOVE the one with the boys! Thanks again for sharing your perspective…you know I love the way you write…love you too ❤

    Comment by margo | December 15, 2012 | Reply

  2. I also love the one of “the boys” you need to teach Margo how to make Shiloh how to behave so well! continue the writings we love them.

    Comment by | December 17, 2012 | Reply

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