Fans of the 1987 hit movie, Dirty Dancing, will recognise the scene where Patrick Swayze teaches Jennifer Grey to dance in a lake, and this body of water has now hit the headlines itself. Mountain Lake is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, and it has filled up again after disappearing for 12 years, as part of a unique self-cleaning cycle that it undertakes periodically.
The lake is part of the Mountain Lake Hotel, which was the setting for Kellerman's Resort, where the Houseman family vacationed in the movie. The storyline goes that when the resort's principal dancer is indisposed, the female lead, Baby Houseman, played by Jennifer Grey, steps in to take her place at a crucial engagement and has to learn to dance. She is taught by the star of the film, Johnny Castle, played by Patrick Swayze, and he takes her to the lake to practise a crucial lift in the air.
Since the film aired, the levels of water in the lake have risen and diminished, as approximately every 400 years, it drains and becomes completely dry. It has mostly been empty between 2008 to 2012, and scientists have been working on it to identify and remediate holes in the bed and sides of the lake. Their aim was to introduce a natural process to reduce the leakages and ultimately bring the lake back. They appear to have been successful, as the lake began to refill during a wet spring of 2020. By July 12, it had refilled to about a third full, which is bringing great joy to locals and of course, visiting Dirty Dancing fans.
"This lake basin is the only one on the planet that goes through this sort of cyclicity and has this sort of plumbing system and sometimes mysteriously disappears to “self-clean," says Roanoke College professor, Jon Cawley, in a video on the hotel's website. "When the lake drains – when it actually empties out – it cleans itself by moving sediment that has accrued in the bottom of the lake down through that rather complex plumbing system to actually make the lake bigger, deeper, and keep it clean. The Mountain Lake basin is absolutely unique, not only in Appalachia but in the entire world."