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Kinzua Dam

Pronounced "kin-zoo" by local residents and "kin-zew-uh" in the Seneca language. Its construction in the 1960's was controversial because it involved the breaking of one of the country's oldest treaties. It forced the departure of Pennsylvania's last Native Americans, the Senecas, who now live nearby on the northern shores of the flooded land near Salamanca, New York. In addition to flood control and power generation, it created Pennsylvania's deepest inland lake, the Allegheny Reservoir, also known as Kinzua Lake.

Kinzua Dam is one of the largest dams in the United States east of the Mississippi River. A lawsuit against breaking the U.S. treaty which guaranteed perpetual Seneca ownership of the land had been argued by the Society of Friends (Quakers) but it lost in Federal Court. The creation of the dam also forced the displacement of the Boy Scout Camp Olmsted, owned by the Chief Cornplanter Council. The camp had once been located along the Allegheny River bottom but had to be moved up the hillside some distance. The once-nearly flat camp now has one of the steepest grades of any Boy Scout Camp in America.

Authorized by the Flood Control Acts of 1936, 1938, and 1941, actual construction on the dam was begun by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1960 and completed in 1965. The main purpose of the dam is flood control on the Allegheny River and Ohio River. This dam controls drainage on a watershed of 2,180 square miles (5,646 km) or an area twice the size of the state of Rhode Island. Side benefits derived from the dam include drought control, hydroelectric power production, and recreation. The total cost of construction was approximately $108 million. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kinzua more than paid for itself in 1972 when tropical storm Agnes dumped continual heavy rains on the watershed, bringing the reservoir to within three feet of its maximum storage capacity. Over $247 million in downstream damages were prevented.

Engineering Data:
Length of dam: 1,897 feet (578 m)
Maximum height of dam: 179 feet (55 m)
Earthfill: 3,000,000 cubic yards (2,293,635 m)
Concrete: 500,000 cubic yards (382,272 m)
Penstocks (pipes through dam),diameter:19 feet (5.8 m)

The nearest city to the dam is Warren, Pennsylvania and is the dam is situated six miles east of the city on Route 59. It was open for public tours (until 9/11/2001) but now is closed for "national security". It is located within the 500,000 acres (2,023 km) Allegheny National forest in northwestern Pennsylvania. A boat marina and beach are located nearby.

Completely surrounded by lush forest, the Kinzua Dam and Allegheny Reservoir are the heart of one of the largest and most popular outdoor recreation areas in the northeastern United States. The Allegheny Reservoir spans the border between western Pennsylvania and New York, and offers year-round recreational opportunities including swimming, boating, camping, fishing, and stunning fall foliage.

I write about Kinzua Dam because as I was growing up my family and I went camping near the lake for weeks/months at a time during the summer. We could only access "our" camp site via boat. It would take about 8 trips from the dock to the camp site due to all the gear, clothes, and people. The best part of camping was the many people that gathered -- parents, maternal grandparents, paternal grandmother, uncles, aunts, cousins, siblings, friends of parents, friends of siblings, LOTS of people. We fished, skied, hiked, caught newts, had scavenger hunts, went sight-seeing via the boat, picked blackberries, visited local historical sites and stores . . . and most of all had fun and were together.

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