The Beauty Around Us

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Posts tagged ‘Austin PA’

Motorcycle Ride to Austin Dam

Bob and I belong to a local motorcycle riding group called 2 Scoop Cycletherapy.  Bob and I and some of our motorcycle riding group friends went on an all-day motorcycle ride on Sunday, July 17. The ride was planned and led by our friend Mark. Our destination was the Austin Dam in Austin, PA.

According to its website the Austin Dam broke in 1911 “and water engulfed much of the town of Austin and claimed over 78 lives.  In 1994 the Austin Dam Memorial Park Association was formed and they since have worked diligently to preserve the dam remains and to create a beautiful natural park.”  Bob and I visited the dam ruins a few years ago. Our friends had never been there.

Sykes Vista

The view of the dam ruins from Sykes Vista was overgrown with weeds. I had to stand on top of a wooden rail to get a picture of the dam ruins.

From Sykes Vista we rode into the Austin Dam Memorial Park. The entrance to the park was on the left a short distance from Sykes Vista. I should mention that the park entrance road, which I believe is a mile in length, is a narrow, gravel road that is steep in places.  The road is especially steep on the descent into the memorial park.

Mark, Bob, Scott and Paul and Debbie making the descent
into Austin Dam Memorial Park.
Faye, Donna and I walked down the steep gravel road.

We did ride 2-up on our way out of the memorial park and up the gravel road.  I asked Bob if it was a wise choice for me not to ride down that steep gravel road with him.  He said yes, as he was able to handle the motorcycle better without a passenger when driving at a very low speed.

Paul at the Flood Victims Memorial

Austin Dam Ruins

The eight of us at Austin Dam Ruins

The Nutschke Pavilion contains pictures and accounts
about the flood of 1911 on its walls and on a couple of tables.

I mentioned earlier that Bob and I visited Austin Dam one time before.  That visit as in October 2013, which you may read about here. I noted improvements since our earlier visit. There were informative maps located under glass on picnic tables in the pavilion. A park attendant was on hand, who talked about the tragedy that occurred in that area on September 30, 1911.  There were permanent bathroom facilities available, rather than a port-a-john.  The Austin Dam Memorial Association newsletters found on its website are full of information pertaining to the past, present and future of the Austin Dam.  The Bayless Pulp & Paper Co. Mill ruins are also nearby.  We passed by the ruins, while riding on State Route 872.  We didn’t stop, as Mark did not see anywhere to pull off.  According to one of the newsletters, there is a place on State Route 872, along Freeman Run, to stop and observe the ruins of the paper mill.  The park attendant informed us that a trail is being planned that will link the Austin Dam ruins with those of the paper mill ruins.  One of our friends remarked that he likes the kind of motorcycle rides that stay in your head for a while.  Our visit to Austin Dam was that kind of ride.

Walking in Laney’s Footsteps

Laney, one of my Facebook friends who I met at the Benezette Elk Camera Club picnic earlier this year, shared photographs on Facebook of the ruins of Austin Dam on Saturday.  Neither Bob nor I had heard of Austin Dam.  Laney’s photographs piqued my interest.  I looked up the location of the dam and learned that it was about a 1 1/2-hour drive from our house.  We made a spur-of-the-moment decision on Sunday morning to go see Austin Dam.

We left Warren at 8:00 AM.  We found Austin without any problem.  Austin Dam is located along Route 872 between the Pennsylvania towns of Coudersport and Austin.  Here is a map showing how to reach Austin Dam Memorial Park from Austin.

I would recommend that you use the route found in the map above to go to Austin Dam.  We turned onto Turner Road from Route 607 but did not make the right turn on Elliott to Route 872.   Instead, we drove straight ahead on a narrow, dirt road that was full of pot holes.  The road we traveled on doesn’t appear on the map at all!  The dirt road took us to an overlook of the dam ruins.  If we had followed the route shown in the map above, it would have taken us to the overlook as well.  We would still have driven on the narrow dirt road with lots of pot holes; however, we would have been on that road a lot less time!

This is the history of Austin Dam, according to a Wikipedia article:

“In 1900, Bayless Paper chose to construct a paper mill in the Freeman Run Valley. By 1909, the company realized that occasional dry seasons required a more reliable water source. After finding a small earthen dam to be inadequate, the T. Chalkey Hatton firm built a large concrete dam across the valley. The dam was 50 feet (15 m) high, 540 feet (160 m) long and cost $86,000 to construct. It was designed to be thirty feet thick, but was built only twenty feet thick.

Within only a few months of its completion, problems were detected. The dam bowed more than 36 feet (11 m) under the pressure of the water it was holding and the concrete started cracking. The bowing was alleviated by using dynamite to blast a 13-foot (4.0 m) space for the excess water to spill over. The cracking was claimed to be normal because of the drying cement.

On September 30, 1911, the dam failed and destroyed the Bayless Pulp & Paper Mill as well as much of the town of Austin. The damage was approximately $10 million. It also resulted in the deaths of 78 people….

The ruins consist of a series of broken sections extending east to west across the Freeman Run Valley. There are five upright sections and two large and several smaller topped sections. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.”

Sykes Vista

I believe this sign commemorates peoples’ lives who were lost in the flood, not where the homes were located or where the people were found. There are hiking trails along the road to this overlook with peoples’ names and ages.

Sykes Vista provides a good overlook of the ruins of Austin Dam.

From Sykes Vista we drove into the Austin Dam Memorial Park.  The entrance to the park was on the left a short distance from Sykes Vista, traveling in the direction of Austin.

The following photographs were taken, while walking around the ruins of Austin Dam.

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