Pieces of the Past: Kinzua

Kinzua, Pa prior to the construction of the dam. Photo submitted.

When you scoot up 59 and pass the dam what do you think of? The majestic beauty of the scenery? Maybe you drive across the Casey Bridge and get a peak at the boats, or the people off to the right on the sand at Kinzua beach.

I know I don’t think like other people. I try to remember number 8. Up behind the beach, in the vicinity of the restrooms and changing areas is where the number 8 green of the Kinzua golf course was.

Every time I cross the Casey bridge I glance in that direction. In fact long after the dam opened you could still plainly see the round outline of the green. My dad and my brother played the last game of golf there before they were forced to close.

I distinctly recall the surveys. College kids were conducting surveys. “Where are you going?” “Where did you come from?” “What do you plan to do in Warren?” It drove my dad and a lot of other people nuts. They started placing State Troopers at some of the sites.

The Quakers took a big interest in the battle over the dam. I remember seeing men and women, even kids dressed in black waving protest signs at us as we sped past.

Kinzua and Corydon are underwater now. A lot of people never drove the wicked turns of “Devil’s Elbow” going down into the valley. I remember being in Kinzua with my dad. It was the final day of summer vacation. A sunny warm September day. Back then school started the Wednesday after Labor Day.

I watched the sun start setting and the shadows became more defined. It was getting to be dusk! After my dad completed his rounds, we started home. We began the long slow climb up out of the valley. A few minutes into the trip it got brighter. Rounding the bend at Devil’s Elbow going west, the sun became a blinding sphere. Kinzua was so deep in the valley that dusk started to arrive much earlier!

What history fails to reveal is that David Lawrence was mayor of Pittsburgh during one of that city’s worst floods. He vowed to prevent another. He ran for Governor and you see the results. Most Warrenites were dead set against the dam until the K.D.V.B. was formed.

Its job was to make Kinzua Lake a huge tourist destination. Hotels, restaurants, and other businesses would create a whole new economy! After all the legal wrangling was done, at the dam’s dedication it was announced that the area would be “preserved” not developed.

And that is the rest of the story!