31 Days: Apocalypse, Now ~ Day 17 :: Drowned Towns

metalorbburiedfernKCCExtNLNH29Sept2018Welcome to day 17 of 31 Days of Apocalypse, Now, a month of posts about apocalypse, revelation, uncovering what’s been hidden. Each post will look at these ideas from its own vantage point, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may only peripherally seem related. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.


I became fascinated by the idea of a drowned town when I read Peter Robinson’s In a Dry Season (1999) and Reginald Hill’s On Beulah Height (1998), both set in Yorkshire, England, and both crime novels whose plots feature towns that have been evacuated and flooded to create reservoirs.

A drowned town is a town, city, village, collection of buildings, or other place that’s submerged, inundated, or flooded by water as a consequence of the building of dams and creating of reservoirs for water supply, hydroelectric power, irrigation, flood management, and/or job creation.

There are lots of real ones in the world, but the focus of this list is fiction written about the phenomenon, for those who share my fascination with towns that were once filled with people, homes, roads, gardens, animals, whole working communities above ground, until, cataclysmically, the waters flowed and the towns were submerged, as if they had never existed. You could even say that these books are apocalyptic: not only do the waters sometimes cover or threaten to cover the town with the sudden violence of the end times, but often the towns that were once submerged are now uncovered in these stories, revealing secrets concealed for decades.

A retired librarian in Pennsylvania developed the core of this list, with additions by members of DorothyL and FictionL online lists in August 2006, and it’s been further expanded by me and a few others, notably Dennis Lien at the Univ. of Minnesota. A few non-fiction titles are listed after the fiction.

The apt term “Reservoir Noir” comes from crime novelist Peter Robinson.

Some descriptions are taken verbatim, or in essence, from review sources such as Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal, and from booksellers’ descriptions.



Drowned Towns

Reservoir Noir (crime fiction)

Alan Dipper
  • Drowning Day (1976): “The calm of a small Welsh town is shattered by the threat of annihilation. A vast reservoir already exists, poised three hundred feet above its rooftops, and now politics and greed demand that the valley itself should be flooded to provide water for new towns and industry. A tide of violence sweeps in from outside, and the people prepare to fight for their future.” Listed in Allen Hubin’s Crime Fiction II. 207 pp.
Eileen Dunlop
  • Valley of the Deer (1989): Young Adult. Set in Scotland. In 1964, 14-year-old Anne is living in a valley near Dumfries that is about to be flooded to make a reservoir, while her archaeologist parents excavate an ancient burial mound. When she finds an old family Bible behind a secret door in her house, she’s led on a quest to solve the mystery surrounding the death in 1726 of a young Scottish woman, Alice Jardyne, accused of witchcraft. 139 pp.
Lee Harris
  • Christening Day Murder (1993): Set in New York state. Thirty years ago, the inhabitants of Studsburg, N.Y., relocated when the town was flooded to create a reservoir. Now that drought has left the small town temporarily high and dry, former nun Christine Bennett (in town for a baby christening) discovers the remains of a young woman hidden in the Catholic church (from PW review). 213 pp.
Reginald Hill
  • On Beulah Height (1998): Set in Yorkshire, England. Dalziel and Pascoe mystery. Fifteen years ago, the village of Dendale suffered double tragedies: three children were kidnapped, never to be found, while a fourth barely escaped with her life. Then the government forced the villagers to evacuate Dendale so they could flood its homes and shops to create a new reservoir. Now, a seven-year-old girl from Danby, the village where most of the Dendale’s inhabitants retreated, disappears (from Booklist review). Excellent. 374 pp.
Donald James
  • Walking the Shadows (2004): ‘There is a drowned village in the South of France called St. Juste, a village where secrets were buried in the Second World War; a village swiftly coming back into the light of day as a summer drought empties the reservoir that hides it. Tom Chapel comes to St. Juste to discover why a local man, Marcel Coultard, has left his 28 million dollar fortune to his daughter Romilly, and why shortly after his bequest, Romilly was abducted and attacked, and left in a life threatening coma.’ 592 pp.
James D. Landis
  • The Taking (2003), aka Artist of the Beautiful (2005): Set in Massachusetts. Swift River Valley is doomed: set to disappear beneath the waters of the Quabbin reservoir. Jeremy Treat is the town minister, a man of deep faith trying to inspire hope in a place destined to be taken from its inhabitants. He is also the husband of Una, a voluptuous eccentric pining for her first love, and father of Jimmy, a seemingly perfect child prodigy. Into this tight-knit family comes Sarianna, a romantic student obsessed by the story of the Valley. Her ensnarement in the secrets and desires of the Treat family is the basis for this stunning gothic novel of sexual awakening, shifting identity, loss and love. Published in the UK as The Valley (2006). 400 pp.
Jane Langton
  • Emily Dickinson Is Dead (1984): Set in Massachusetts, at a poetry symposium in Amherst. Describes the 1939 flooding of the towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott to create the Quabbin Reservoir. One of her characters stuffs a body down Shaft 12 on the Hardwick shoreline of the reservoir. 247 pp.
Julia Wallis Martin
  • A Likeness in Stone (1997): Set near Oxford, England. A killer strikes again when long-dead victim Helena Warner surfaces from the bottom of a reservoir, and her three closest friends continue to maintain an eerie silence as Bill Driver tries to uncover their dark secret. Excellent. 280 pp.
Sharyn McCrumb
  • Zombies of the Gene Pool (1992): Set in eastern Tennessee. Mystery/science fiction. In the 1950s, a group of eight young men buried a time capsule containing their science fiction stories and other artifacts of the time. A dam was later built on the Watauga River, and a lake, Gene C. Breedlove Lake (known as the Gene Pool), formed over the place where the time capsule was buried. Now the lake must be drained for dam repairs. Since some of the eight men, who are now elderly, have become famous, the time capsule will be dug up. A writer who was supposed to have died 30 years earlier shows up, and when he is killed, science fiction writer Jay Omega sets out to discover who the killer is. 274 pp.
Jon McGregor
  • Reservoir 13 (2017): Not really a mystery but mysterious. A thirteen-year-old girl has disappeared while walking in the English Peak District. The people in the nearest village help with the search, and their lives (over 13 years) are altered by her disappearance — they’re haunted by the presence of the distraught parents, by half-formed theories and suspicions, by secret teenage knowledge, and by recurring public scrutiny. That the life of the village necessarily goes on, in the wake of an unimaginable private catastrophe, is the great subject of the novel. The reservoirs beyond the Derbyshire village where the girl vanishes are an attraction for walkers and a water source, and they also hide a whole earlier village. Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize, a Kirkus Best Book of 2017. 304 pp.
Michael Miano
  • The Dead of Summer (1999): Set in Connecticut. New York TV writer Michael Carpo vacations annually in the small town of Bridgewater, Conn., at the house of his friend, elderly African-American writer Jack Crawford — but this year Carpo arrives to find him dead. It looks like suicide, but then Carpo learns that the village’s older residents are dying at a suspiciously fast clip. The deceased, it turns out, are all linked to a ghost town submerged by a recently constructed lake. Carpo must find out who wanted them dead, and why, before the last of the lost town’s survivors disappear (from PW review). 224 pp.
B. Michael Radburn
  • The Crossing (2011; Taylor Bridges series #1). Thriller. Traumatised by the disappearance of his daughter Claire, Taylor Bridges’ marriage breaks down, and he exiles himself to Glorys Crossing in Tasmania. Taylor is the only park ranger in this isolated town adjoining a national park, a town dying a slow death as the rising waters of the new dam project slowly flood it. Struggling with the guilt of Claire’s disappearance, Taylor is a chronic sleepwalker. When another young girl the same age goes missing, Taylor begins to question himself… uncertain of what happens when he sleepwalks. It’s a race against time not just to find the missing girl, but in Taylor’s search for redemption and a past better left lying at the bottom of the new lake. 336 pp.
Ron Rash
  • One Foot in Eden: A Novel (2002): Set in Seneca, South Carolina. This debut novel combines a murder mystery with the occasion of the flooding of a South Carolina Appalachian valley by Carolina Power. The real Santee-Cooper Reservoir is mentioned. 240 pp.
Rick Riordan
  • The Devil Went Down to Austin (2002), Book 4 in the Tres Navarre series:  Set near and under Lake Travis in Austin. As Riordan says in an interview: “When Mansfield Dam was built, and they flooded the area, you think that it all washes away, but it doesn’t. There really are pecan groves down there still, and they say they even have the pecans on the trees — the last pecans they ever grew. And barbed wire fences. What the land was like until it was taken and flooded.” The book includes the description of a dive into the preserved pecan orchard at the bottom of the lake. 368 pp.
Peter Robinson
  • In a Dry Season (1999): Set in Yorkshire, England. When a drought drains the local Thornfield Reservoir, uncovering the long-drowned village of Hobbs End and the skeleton of a murder victim from the 1940s, Detective Alan Banks and Detective Sergeant Annie Cabot investigate the decades-old crime, with quite a bit of WWII ambiance and history involved. Excellent. 422 pp.
Lisa See
  • Dragon Bones (2003): Liu Hulan, an agent for China?s Ministry of Public Security, and her American husband return to investigate murder and archaeological theft at the Three Gorges Dam, one of the most beautiful and controversial places on earth. When completed, the Three Gorges Dam will be the most powerful dam ever built and the biggest project China has undertaken since the building of the Great Wall. Yet, the reservoir formed by the dam will inundate over 2,000 archaeological sites and displace over 2 million people. 368 pp.
Paul Somers (aka Paul Winterton)
  • The Broken Jigsaw (1961): Set in England. An adulterous couple murder her rich husband and hide his body in a sinkhole that’s about to be covered by the reservoir that will also drown the village of Alton. Two years later, a drought causes the reservoir to recede and the body must be retrieved and rehidden — but in the meanwhile a nearby cottage has been rented by a writer who never seems to leave it and who is sure to observe such activities. 184 pp.
Julia Spencer-Fleming
  • Out of the Deep I Cry: A Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne Mystery (2004): Set in upstate NY. Crime novel that intertwines storylines from the 1930s, 1970s, and present. The 1930 storyline involves the building of the Conklingville Dam and the flooding of forty square miles of the Sacandaga River Valley, creating the Great Sacandaga Lake as well as Stewart’s Pond, which is a focus of this story. When the flooding occured, many residents of the area were relocated to fictitious Miller’s Kill, where this series is set. 336 pp.
Donald Westlake
  • Drowned Hopes (1990): Set in upstate New York. John Dortmunder’s ex-cellmate, Tom Jimson, asks Dortmunder’s help in reclaiming a $700,000 stash from an old robbery. The cash was buried in an upstate New York town that was subsequently flooded to become part of New York City’s reservoir system. Jimson’s plan to blow up the reservoir dam will doom nearby towns, so Dortmunder must concoct a more humane solution (from PW review). 418 pp.
John Morgan Wilson
  • Rhapsody in Blood: A Benjamin Justice Novel (2006): Set in California. In 1956, glamorous film star Rebecca Fox was murdered in the Eternal Springs Hotel in the Calif. desert. A young African-American man was blamed for the murder and was lynched by an angry mob led by the KKK, though new DNA evidence indicates that he may have been innocent of the crime. The government has since damned the valley for hydroelectric power and the waters of Lake Enid now cover the town where the viscious killing took place. Benjamin Justice accepts an offer from a reporter friend to spend a relaxing weekend at the Haunted Springs Hotel and becomes involved in both the old murder and current-day danger. 288 pp.
Stuart Woods
  • Under the Lake (1987): Set in Sutherland, Georgia,” a charmingly reconstructed town on a man-made lake.” Investigative reporter John Howell becomes obsessed with the dark secrets of a local family that vanished after their farm was flooded a quarter-century earlier. 281 pp.


Other Drowned Town Fiction

Mabel Esther Allan
  • Pendron Under the Water (1961): Juvenile fiction, set in the UK. When Pendron villlage is drowned to form a reservoir, all the villagers except one take the date stones from their cottages. The story is about the recovery of that missing stone one summer when the reservoir is very low because there is no rain.
Andrea Barrett
  • The Forms of Water (1993): Set in Massachusetts. At 80, Brendan Auberon, a former monk, is confined to a wheelchair in a nursing home. His last wish is to see the 200 acres of woodland where his family home once stood. Half a century ago, the owners of the land were evicted from their homes and the land was flooded to create a reservoir which would provide water for the big city. Brendan convinces his staid nephew Henry to hijack the nursing home van to make this ancestral visit.
Helen Abbott Beals
  • The River Rises (1941): The story of the flooding of a Massachusetts town and the effect of the impending deluge upon the lives of its inhabitants. Warm-hearted Hollice finds that her love for her husband, David Meade, a priggish minister, is wearing thin. They return to his hometown to find a fight brewing between the town and a great water project, which will wipe out the village. David leads the fight on one side, while a former boyfriend of Hollice’s heads the project.
John Blackburn
  • Bury Him Darkly (2013): An English manor house is about to be submerged under a new reservoir as part of a planned water project. The house contains the tomb of its two-centuries-dead (or is he?) previous owner — a poet/artist/occultist whose late artistic flowering is suspected of being caused by a demonic bargain — as well as most of his work.
Matthew J. Costello
  • Beneath Still Waters (2007), horror novel. Fifty years ago, the town of Gouldens Falls was evacuated, flooded, and submerged under 200 feet of water. Today, on the anniversary of its watery fate, the man-made lake fascinates and alarms a visiting journalist, because something besides the old town is down there. Something evil. (H/t fictionmags listserv)
Borden Deal
  • Dunbar’s Cove (1957): Novel set in the 1930s. Matthew Dunbar is a farmer trying to stop the Tennessee Valley Authority from flooding his land for a hydroelectric dam. The TVA starts building the dam that will flood his little valley, but Dunbar resists the TVA and its point man (and his daughter’s beloved), Crawford Gates, who’s trying to move everyone away from the designated flood area. Based on the history of Alabama’s Guntersville Dam and Lake Guntersville, this is one of the two novels (the other is William Bradford Huie’s Mud on the Stars) that served as the basis for the film Wild River (1960).
Berlie Doherty
  • Deep Secret (2004): Young Adult. Set in England. Haunting novel about twins and generations in a village which is to be flooded to create a reservoir. Based on real events of the flooding of the small villages of Derwent and Ashopton in north-west Derbyshire to make way for the building of the Ladybower reservoir supplying water to Sheffield, Leicester, Derby and Nottingham. 264 pp.
Ivan Doig
  • Bucking the Sun (1996): Set in northwestern Montana. A Depression-era narrative largely devoted to the problems of building the Fort Peck Dam, which created a reservoir 135 miles long, provided flood control and was the biggest earth-fill dam in the world at the time. It focuses on the fictional Duff family and their roles in the mammoth dam project, and in the process describes the working conditions and way of life of the thousands of workers hired to construct the Fort Peck Dam, many of them homesteaders from upriver farms destined to disappear under the waters of the newly formed Fort Peck Lake (summary from Wikipedia). There are two murders, but the book is not essentially a mystery. 412 pp.
Sylvia Fair
  • The Ivory Anvil (1974UK/1977US): Juvenile fiction, set in the UK. A piece of a 3-D cube puzzle is found in a submerged village that that dries out during a heatwave.
Sarah Hall
  • Haweswater (2002): Set in Cumbria, England. Won UK’s Commonwealth Prize. Debut novel is set in 1936 in remote Marsdale village in the Lake District, and tells of the flooding of the dale to make way for a reservoir, against the wishes of many of the local hill farmers. When Waterworks representative Jack Ligget from industrial Manchester arrives with plans to build the new reservoir, he brings the much feared threat of impending change to this bucolic hamlet. And when he begins an intense and troubled affair with Janet Lightburn, a devout local woman, it leads to scandal, tragedy, and remarkable, desperate acts. 267 pp.
Elodie Harper
  • “Wild Swimming,” award-winning horror story in Six Scary Stories, a 2016 anthology edited by Stephen King. Charlotte Miller, whose attempts to swim in an isolated lake in the village of Vaiduoklis in East Europe, despite the warnings of her landlady that this is not a good idea, go horribly wrong as she realises that the drowned village in the lake is the centre of an eerie and haunting entity, one that is determined to be avenged on the unwelcome trespasser in the water. The real-life Haweswater and Dunwich drowned villages are mentioned in passing, as comparisons. The story is told in the form of emails (mostly those from Charlotte to her friend back in the UK).
Mollie Hunter
  • The Walking Stones: A Story of Suspense (1970; illus Trina Schart Hyman). Ages 9-12. Set in the Scottish Highlands. Paranormal thriller. After receiving the gift of Second Sight from his old friend, the Bodach, ten-year-old Donald becomes responsible for safeguarding the ancient power of the walking stones before their glen is flooded by a hydroelectric company. 143 pp.
Brian Knight
  • Reservoir Gods (2009). Suspense/horror novella (160 pp). Set around Dworshak, a lake created from the northern fork of the Clearwater River, dammed up to generate power and prevent spring floods in the town of Orofino. An amateur local historian is scuba-diving the reservoir, hoping to prove that there was a town beneath the waters. Other characters include a commissioner, his campaign manager, an old fisherman, a deputy, a former drug dealer, a garbage man who disposes of things, etc. When a major tornado hits, everyone — including animals and sea monsters — panic.
Jackie French Koller
  • Someday (2002): Ages 9-12. Set in Massachusetts. Fourteen-year-old Celie lives in Enfield, Mass. in 1938 and her town, along with three others, is to be flooded to create a reservoir. All the families have to move from their homes, but Celie’s Gran refuses to do so. Celie’s mother is angry with Gran and says she should face reality, but that’s because Celie’s mother is a city girl and really wants to leave. Based on the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir. 224 pp.
Kathryn Lasky
  • Home Free (1985): Young Adult. Set in Massachusetts. Fifteen-year-old Sam Brooks and his mother have moved to her hometown in New England, mourning Sam’s father, who died in a car crash. Sam soon involves himself with a project to introduce eagles to an ‘accidental wilderness’ that exists because an entire valley, including four villages, was flooded to create a reservoir, forcing many families to relocate and leave their pasts behind. His work to save the wilderness helps an autistic girl return to reality and reveals her strange hidden power. 245 pp.
Tim Lebbon
  • ‘The Flow,’ in Terror Tales of Wales, ed. Paul Finch (Gray Friars Press, 2014): A long drought results in a small Welsh village resurfacing from the reservoir that had drowned it. Decades before, Ruth, in a struggle with her physically-abusive husand, had killed him in their house and hidden his body under the foundations, shortly before the village was abandoned. With nostalgic former residents and urban archaeologists now arriving to explore, she returns in hopes of re-concealing the skeleton before someone uncovers it. It appears, though, that the skeleton has its own plans, and wants to be found. (With thanks to Dennis Lien.)
H.P. Lovecraft
  • ‘The Colour Out of Space’ (1927): Spooky science fiction. Set in Massachusetts. Forty years ago, a strange meteorite struck the town and farms of Arkham, Mass. Since then, nothing grows right here (inedible fruits, anatomically incorrect animals, oddly coloured plant life, a sort of phosphorescence in the air), and people have malaise, insanity, bad dreams…. Something is sucking life itself out of everything in the area, and its reach is growing larger and larger. Now, the entire blighted area will be flooded and the citizens of Boston will be drinking water from the created reservoir. The entire story is online.
Jacqueline T. Lynch
  • Beside the Still Waters (2012): Four towns, dismantled as an entire valley is prepared to be flooded. Three generations weave a tapestry of isolation and stubborn independence, battling the forces of nature, the Commonwealth, and each other in this family saga. A courageous girl becomes the guardian of her family’s heritage, and ultimately, the one to determine what happens next. Based on actual events that displaced four towns in central Massachusetts in the 1920s and 1930s for the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir. 244 pp.
Sue Miller
  • The World Below (2001): Set in Vermont. The Quabbin Reservoir and Harriman Reservoir are not central to the plot but are mentioned seven times between pp. 209 and 270.
Maryanne O’Hara
  • Cascade (2102): It’s 1935. Desdemona Hart Spaulding, a gifted, Paris-trained artist, has married in haste, in the once-thriving summer town of Cascade, to provide a home for her dying father and save the family’s renowned Shakespeare theater. Now Cascade is on the short list to be flooded to provide drinking water for Boston, Mass., and Dez’s growing discontent is complicated by her attraction to Jacob, a fellow artist. 368 pp.
June Oldham
  • Undercurrents (1998): Children’s book. A heat wave begins to take its toll and a village, once drowned in the name of progress, gradually reappears as the reservoir that took its place subsides. 202 pp.
Riel Nason
  • The Town That Drowned (2011): Coming-of-age novel. When Ruby Carson fell through the ice at a skating party, she saw her entire town floating through water. “Then an orange-tipped surveyor stake turns up in a farmer’s field. Another is found in the cemetery. A man with surveying equipment is spotted eating lunch near Pokiok Falls. The residents of Haverton soon discover that a massive dam is being constructed and that most of their homes will be swallowed by the rising water. Suspicions mount, tempers flare, and secrets are revealed. As the town prepares for its own demise, 14-year-old Ruby Carson sees it all from a front-row seat.” Set 1960s. 273 pp.
Margaret Paice
  • They Drowned a Valley (1969): Ages 9-12. Story of the people living in remote Upper Wambridge Valley in Australia, who face an uncertain future as the dam for the new reservoir is about to flood their homes. 192 pp.
Alice and Martin Provensen
  • Shaker Lane (1987): Children’s picture book. An old rundown neighborhood, lovingly described, is flooded out when the county builds a reservoir. Only Mr. Van Sloop, who has opened an antique shop on a houseboat and still takes in stray dogs, is left. 32 pp.
Conrad Richter
  • The Waters of Kronos (1960), a time-travel novel, which won the National Book Award for Fiction in 1961. Aging writer John Donner returns from his home on the west coast to Unionville, Pennsylvania, where he grew up, and discovers that the town he once knew has been submerged under the Kronos River, when a dam was built to supply power for a hydroelectric plant. While walking on the road alongside the town cemetery, he gets a ride on a coal wagon, which takes him into the past, to the night before his grandfather’s funeral. More here. (H/t to fictionmags listserv.)
Lynda E. Rucker
  • “This Time of Day, This Time of Year” in Memoryville Blues (2013, ed. Crowther and Gevers). Fantasy short story. The town of Hekate, Georgia had become ‘locally known as the witch-town,’ almost depopulated and under the sway of a reputed sorceress. Soldier Josie returns from a tour of duty in Iraq changed. Her younger sister Ellen notices the changes and comes to share Josie’s obsession with Hekate, ‘whose ruins lie beneath the surface of a nearby lake. The place becomes a symbol of all that has been lost and the hope for something better, though in reality it is simply a trap for those who are to come.’ The story captures the mood and feel of Ellen’s situation, looking after someone she should love but who scares her, and unable to say why.
Michael Shea
  • The Color Out of Time (1984): Science fiction. Set in New England. Homage to Lovecraft’s ‘The Colour Out of Space.’ The flooded New England valley made a beautiful holiday spot, with twenty miles of secluded lakeshore. But visitors Gerald Sternbruck and Ernst Carlsberg soon realise that the still waters of the lake conceal a frightful evil that preys on flora, fauna, and human beings. 191 pp.
Nova Ren Suma
  • Imaginary Girls (2011): YA. Set in the drowned town of Olive, New York. ‘When Chloe discovers the body of one of their friends out on the reservoir, it sets into motion a grave unraveling, and even [her sister] Ruby may not be able to weave together the fraying threads.’ 352 pp.
Jonathan Thomas
  • The Color Over Occam (2013): Thriller/suspense. “Gorman County disappeared decades ago when floodwaters rose to fill a reservoir. So why should the ghosts of drowned villages resurface only now, in a new century? And what does the reservoir have to do with the grisly deaths, disease, and disappearances stalking the benighted little town of Occam? Amateur paranormal sleuth Jeff Slater poses these innocent questions, only to encounter hostility, intimidation, and violence wherever he turns. In this saga of Lovecraftian horror, noirish detection, and festering corruption, Slater comes to understand how little he ever knew of his hometown’s macabre history and its bizarre present.”
Steven Utley and Jessica Reisman
  • “The Cicadas” (2015, anthologised in Breakout), a short horror story. A ‘sense of urgency [which] attends the affairs of both the living in the dead’ is roused by last-minute preparations in a town beginning to be submerged. The unrest spreads to a ghost/corpse, who himself had been drowned many years before in the town’s river, and stirs up memories and regrets both in his mind and in that of his lost love, who is now herself ancient and dying with the town. (h/t Dennis Lien)
Robert Penn Warren
  • Flood: A Romance Of Our Time (1964): Set in Tennessee. This novel begins when Brad Tolliver, long-absent native son and successful screen writer, and Yasha Jones, famous director and stranger to the region, arrive in a small Tennessee town in April 1960. Their purpose is to create a great film about the town, which will soon vanish: already downstream is the massive dam behind which the waters will rise over Fiddlersburg. Not considered one of Warren’s best novels. 368 pp.
William F. Weld
  • Stillwater (2001): The story of fifteen-year-old Jamieson, a farm boy who finds first love with the unforgettable, dreamy Hannah. At the same time, life as he knows it is unraveling around him, as his town and four neighboring towns will soon be flooded to create a huge reservoir. Written by a former Mass. governor. 240 pp.
Jane Yolen
  • Letting Swift River Go (1992; illus. Barbara Cooney): Ages 5-9. Set in Massachusetts. Relates Sally Jane’s experience of changing times in rural America, as she lives through the drowning of the Swift River Towns in western Massachusetts to form the Quabbin Reservoir. 32 pp.

Notes: The plot of the horror film ‘In Dreams’(Dreamworks, 1999), set in New York state, involves a town that 25 years ago was flooded to make way for a new reservoir. The killer claims to have been chained to a bed in the town when it was flooded. He’s now a grown man who goes around the thick woods, stealing little girls and then killing them. It stars Annette Bening, Aidan Quinn, Devon Borisoff, Robert Downey, Stephen Rea, and is directed by Neil Jordan. It’s based rather loosely on the book Doll’s Eyes by Bari Wood (1993).

If you want to see a very funny send-up of the concept, watch the Vicar of Dibley episode titled “Summer” (2000): Dibley is in the middle of a drought, but when the water company decides to solve the problem by turning Dibley into a reservoir, Geraldine chains herself to the Church in protest.

Non-Fiction about Drowned Towns (a selection)

Thomas Conuel
  • Quabbin: The accidental wilderness (1981): When Quabbin reservoir was completed and filled in 1946, the engineers had created the third largest body of fresh water in New England and had accomplished one of the larger public works projects of the period. They had also uprooted and displaced the inhabitants of the valley, leveled and flooded four complete towns plus six villages — and created a magnificent wilderness of some 85,000 acres.
James L. Douthat
  • Cherokee Reservoir Grave Removals by T.V.A. (2003): 222 pages. The more than 150 cemeteries that were flooded when the T.V.A. built the Cherokee Reservoir in upper East Tennessee are shown here with a plat of most of the cemeteries that were flooded with a cataloging of the burials and removals.
David and Joan Hay
  • Mardale, The Drowned Village: Being a Lakeland Journey into Yesterday (1976): Profile of life in the village of Mardale near Shap in the English Lake District which was drowned to create a new reservoir.
Allen Holt
  • Watergrove: A History of the Valley and Its Drowned Village(2002): In 1938 several small villages were submerged to form Rochdale’s largest reservoir. 82 pp.
David Howarth
  • The Shadow of the Dam (1961): Chronicles the construction of the Kariba Dam in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and the forced migration of 35,000 Tonga tribesmen whose homes were flooded by the rising waters of the giant reservoir.
Elizabeth Peirce
  • Quabbin Valley: People and Places (2006): A collection of vintage photographs and and informative text provide a nostalgic look at the Quabbin Valley, from 1750 to 1938, documenting the everyday lives of the inhabitants of Dana, Enfield, Prescott, Greenwich, and their environs, until they were displaced when the region was flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir. 128 pp.
Joyce Hunsinger Pogany
  • Austintown (2007): The damming of Meander Creek creating Meander Reservoir put Ohltown underwater and flooded some of West Austintown.
Lesley Ross, ed.
  • Before the Lake: Memories of the Chew Valley (2004): The story of an area of North-East Somerset, flooded in the 1950s to provide a reservoir. An appendix gives details of the last occupiers of properties which were lost during the construction.
LaVonna M. Sparkman
  • From Homestead to Lakebed: Kosmos — The Town that Drowned (1994, OOP). 242 pp. In the early 1960s, Kosmos in Lewis County, Washington, was submerged in a manmade basic called Riffe Lake so that Tacoma Power could build a dam at Mossyrock. The $133 million Cowlitz River Project inundated Kosmos. But in the winter, when the water recedes, the shapes of the town reappear in mud.


Photos: (featured) Cheshire Reservoir along the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail in Adams, in the Berkshires of Mass, May 2010; West Reservoir along the Bells Neck Conservation Trail, Harwich, in Cape Cod, Mass, Oct. 2016; New London-Springfield Water District reservoir at the end of Kidder Brook Trail in New London, NH, Oct. 2017.

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