The Kinzua Dam

               The Kinzua Dam was begun in 1960, and it was completed in 1966. It is located about nine miles above the city of Warren. Today, the dam is an important part of Warren County’s landscape. People use the reservoir, the lake that sits behind the dam, for swimming, boating, and fishing. People use the area around the dam for hunting, camping, and backpacking.

               The United States Corps of Engineers built the Kinzua Dam in order to prevent flooding along the Allegheny River, particularly in the city of Pittsburgh. In the past, many towns along the Allegheny River were in danger of flooding, usually in the springtime when snow and ice would begin to melt and flow into the river. By building a dam, engineers could stop floods by holding water back and letting it out later. Houses, businesses, and even human lives could be saved by stopping the floods. The estimated cost of the dam was 114 million dollars. Although this is a large amount of money, the government believed that the dam would pay for itself in the long run by preventing damage from floods.

               All the water which is held back by the Kinzua Dam is kept in a man-made lake behind the dam called a reservoir. It is twenty-seven miles long and it extends all the way into New York state. However, before the dam was built, there were already towns lying right where this reservoir would be built. The land on which Chief Cornplanter had lived sat behind where the dam would be, and many of his descendants, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren still lived on the land. The towns of Kinzua and Corydon also sat in the Allegheny Valley, right behind where the dam would be built. When they started to build the dam in the 1960s, everyone who lived there had to move. People had to sell their land to the government and they lost their homes and businesses. All the buildings in these towns were either moved or destroyed. Cornplanter’s monument had to be moved too.

               Although the dam has helped many people who live down the river from it, the building of the Kinzua Dam meant the end of three Warren County communities.


Courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society