By Kent Wilcox

After supervising operations at the Brevard DuPont Plant for twenty-two years, Jack Dense retired as Plant Manager in 1976. John Golden took over as Plant Manager facing the challenge of creating a memorial to Dense. Although Dense was an avid golfer, building an 18-hole course in Buck Forest was not a viable option. Dense was also an avid fisherman, however, so Golden decided to create Lake Dense as an entertainment venue. The plan was to stock Lake Dense with mature trout; customers could catch the fish and have them cleaned and cooked onsite by chefs.   

Chan Hubbard, Brevard DuPont Plant and Properties Security Supervisor, believes that the Lake Dense site was originally a small pond, built when the Coxe family owned the property. After the property was sold to DuPont in 1956, the lake was no longer maintained. Trees that grew in the lakebed over the next twenty years were cleared by a crew supervised by Charles Paxton, DuPont Plant Ranger, in 1977. The dam was rebuilt under the supervision of Arnold Morgan with Daniels Construction. By 1978, Lake Dense (Figure 1) was a shallow 5.5-acre lake fed by a stream flowing from Lake Alford.   

Lake Alford was named after Norm Alford, who became Assistant Plant Manager in 1977, and was built by Jim Hill and Chan Hubbard in 1978 on what may have been a beaver pond at one time. At only 0.4 acres in size (Figure 2), it was too small to be of much purpose beyond serving as a backup reservoir for Lake Dense. Lake Alford is fed by an unnamed stream that flows down the slopes of Joanna Mountain.

 

Unfortunately, the waters in Lake Alford and Lake Dense were too warm to sustain trout. In desperation, Chan Hubbard met with Ben Cart, owner of the Summit Camps, to ask if some of the colder water from Lake Julia could be piped to the lakes. Cart agreed, so Charles Paxton and his crew dug a wide trench and installed a six-inch diameter pipe that originates near the Lake Julia dam and runs about 600 ft to a branch point, with one fork going approximately 80 feet to Lake Alford and the other approximately 350 feet to Lake Dense. Gate valves (Figure 3) were installed at the branch point to control the flow of water to each lake. No pumps were installed. The surface elevations of Lakes Alford and Dense are only ten- to twenty feet lower than Lake Julia; to ensure adequate gravitational flow to Lakes Alford and Dense, the intake was placed less than two feet below the surface of Lake Julia. That seems less than ideal, as the surface waters in Lake Julia are likely too warm for trout in the summer months. As of March 2021, the system remains in place and the gate valves open, but no water is flowing from the end of the pipe at Lake Dense (Figure 4). 

Due to less-than-perfect memories, dates for when Lake Imaging (Figure 5) was built vary, but the best guess is that it was built in 1982 under the Norm Alford’s supervision. Based on a 1991 map produced by the DuPont Corp, the original name was Honest James Lake–perhaps because of Jim Branch’s proximity, although it was not the source of water for the lake. Former employee Chet Meinzer suggested that the name was changed after the Brevard DuPont plant switched from the Photo Products Division to the Imaging Systems Division in 1987. Lake Imaging is fed by water diverted from Hooker Creek through a 12-inch pipe (Figure 6) to the lake and then redirected back to Hooker Creek. Although only 0.7 acres in size, Lake Imaging provides a more sustainable habitat for trout–presumably because of the cooler water from Hooker Creek. According to Jeff Jennings, former employee at the Brevard DuPont Plant, “allowing customers to trout fish was a big part of the mission of the property. Radiologists and staff would visit the plant from all over the country for sales visits and tours of the waterfalls.” The lakes were aggressively stocked with trout from trucks that delivered 800 pounds of fish once a month. Customers quickly caught underfed trout in the small lake; staff cleaned the trout and cooked them along with steaks on a grill. It was a powerful draw to increase sales of X-ray film. Lakes Alford, Dense, and Imaging were strictly off-limits for employees at the Brevard DuPont Plant; any unauthorized employee trying to poach trout could lose his or her job.  

The DuPont plant is gone and most of the original picnic shelters (Figure 7) at the lakes have been removed. However, if you poke around in the woods near these three lakes, you will find remnants of the fish cleaning sinks and cooking stations used for customer entertainment. You might also catch some healthy trout in Lake Imaging, which is the only lake in DuPont State Recreational Forest stocked annually with trout raised by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission at the Bobby Setzer State Fish Hatchery in Pisgah National Forest.