The Lake… Reappears?!

Four years after our inaugural feature on the vanishing lake from “Dirty Dancing” the hydrological wonder has re-emerged for an unexpected encore.

Back in 2016, a nascent ecology magazine published its first feature on Mountain Lake, a blue gem in the Virginia mountains once made famous by the 1987 film “Dirty Dancing.” At the time, the lake was a literal mud puddle as hydrologists, hotel execs, and rabid Patrick Swayze fans struggled to find out wtf was happening to their beloved slice of imagined ecology.

But now, four years later, the lake has suddenly… reappeared! As CNN reports, a particularly “wet spring” has refilled the lake to about a third of its former glory this summer. It’s a shocking improvement from the near-empty state we experienced as incognito science journalists on the estate. However, we’re honestly not quite buying the rationale offered up for the lakes latest re-emergence in the cable network’s report.

Before we dive into the hard science, might we urge you to just go read the article. For those without the time to read 14,000+ words on a hotel’s Sysiphiphean attempt to plug up the holes of one of the world’s most hydrologically unique entities, we just want to make one thing clear: No-one really knows what’s going on or why.

You see, Mountain Lake is not like normal lakes. As we’ve previously (and obsessively) reported, it actually drains and refills itself on a geologic timer roughly every 400 years, essentially “cleaning itself out” through a complex underground plumbing system local ecologists have literally dedicated their lives to understanding. To this day, scientists have been unable to figure out where the water goes when the lake drains. It’s also unclear why the lake has suddenly re-filled to some of its former glory, especially in a region hit fairly hard by the effects of drought and climate change over the past decade.

Could underground lake goblins suddenly have watched the 1987 cult dance flick and decided to return aging fans the chance to re-enact the iconic Baby lift scene? Did the Mountain Lake hotel’s multi-million dollar investment into damming up a lake they didn’t really understand actually work? Has the lake’s water level really just been tied to annual rainfall this entire time?

Read more on CNN.