Kinzua Dam

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Kinzua Dam
Allegheny National Forest PA Kinzua Dam1.jpg
Kinzua Dam on the Allegheny River
Official name Kinzua Dam
Location Allegheny National Forest
Glade Township / Mead Township, Warren County, PA, USA
Coordinates 41°50′16.01″N 79°0′10.82″W / 41.8377806°N 79.0030056°W / 41.8377806; -79.0030056Coordinates: 41°50′16.01″N 79°0′10.82″W / 41.8377806°N 79.0030056°W / 41.8377806; -79.0030056
Construction began 1960
Opening date 1965
Operator(s) Army Corps of Engineers
Dam and spillways
Impounds Allegheny River
Height 179 feet (55 m)
Length 1,897 feet (578 m)
Width (base) 1,245 feet (379 m)
Creates Allegheny Reservoir
Total capacity 1,300,000 acre feet (1.6 km3)
Active capacity 573,000 acre feet (0.707 km3)

The Kinzua Dam, on the Allegheny River in Warren County, Pennsylvania, is one of the largest dams in the United States east of the Mississippi River.[not verified in body] It is located within the Allegheny National Forest.

The dam is located 6 miles (10 km) east of Warren, Pennsylvania, along Route 59, within the 500,000-acre (200,000 ha) Allegheny National Forest. A boat marina and beach are located within the dam boundaries. In addition to providing flood control and power generation, the dam created Pennsylvania's deepest lake, the Allegheny Reservoir, also known as Kinzua Lake.[citation needed] The lake extends 25 miles to the north, nearly to Salamanca, New York, which is within the Allegany Reservation of the Seneca Nation of New York.


Authorized by Congress under the Flood Control Acts of 1936 and 1938 during the Great Depression, construction on the dam was not begun by the US Army Corps of Engineers until 1960; it was completed in 1965. By that time considerable opposition to the dam had developed, particularly by the Seneca Nation of Indians based in New York. Due to flooding of lands behind the dam, they had communities that would be flooded and more than 600 families who were displaced and forced to relocate.

The main purpose of the dam was flood control on the Allegheny River. Kinzua controls drainage on a watershed of 2,180 square miles (5,650 km2), an area twice the size of the state of Rhode Island. According to the Corps of Engineers, side benefits derived from the dam include drought control, hydroelectric power production, and recreation.[1][2][3] The hydroelectric power is distributed largely to ????

Engineering data[edit]

  • Length of dam: 1,877 feet (572 m)
  • Maximum height of dam: 179 feet (55 m)
  • Earthfill: 3,000,000 cubic yards (2,300,000 m³)
  • Concrete: 500,000 cubic yards (380,000 m³)
  • Penstocks (pipes through dam): Eight 5’-8” x 10’ discharge sluices and two hydroelectric penstocks, 15 feet (4.6 m) in diameter
  • Hydroelectric generating capacity: 400 megawatts
  • Construction Costs: $108,000,000


The total cost of construction was approximately $108 million. According to the US 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. Downstream flood damages of an estimated $247 million were avoided. The dam at Kinzua has prevented an estimated $1 billion in flood damages since becoming operational.[1]

Seneca Pumped Storage Generating Station[edit]

Seneca Pumped Storage Generating Station on the left, looking down river

Immediately above the downstream side of the dam is the Seneca Pumped Storage Generating Station, a hydroelectric power plant using pumped storage to accommodate peak electrical load by storing potential energy in water pumped into an upper reservoir. It uses base load electricity, then reclaims that energy when needed by allowing the water to fall back down and drive generators along the way.


The Allegheny Reservoir, also known as Kinzua Lake, and surrounding area have been opened up for a variety of recreational activities such as camping, hiking, snowmobiling and boating along the reservoir. The US Forest Service created four highly developed reservoir campgrounds, along with five primitive (boat to or hike only) camping areas. Several scenic overlooks with miles of hiking trails and information centers were also constructed along the reservoir.[4] Much of Allegheny National Recreation Area surrounds Allegheny Lake.[5] In addition, the Seneca Nation maintains a fully developed campground on their reservation at the northern end of the reservoir in New York.[1]


Native Americans[edit]

Construction of the dam condemned 10,000 acres (4,000 ha) of the Allegheny Reservation granted in the Treaty of Canandaigua (signed by President Washington),[6] forcing relocation of 600 Seneca from their community within their reservation. In 1961, citing the immediate need for flood control, President John F. Kennedy denied a request by the Seneca to halt construction.[7]

In addition, the Seneca lost a 1964 appeal over the related relocation of a four-lane highway through the remaining portion of the reservation.[8] This caused them to lose more land to the interstate (but, in turn, the reservation was able to reclaim the land around the old highway the interstate had replaced; that land sits abandoned and unused as of 2014).

The government also condemned for the dam project a Pennsylvania land grant to the Seneca leader Cornplanter. His descendants had already moved to Salamanca, New York, near the northern shore of the Allegheny Reservoir.[9]

Condemnation of Corydon and Kinzua[edit]

The construction of the dam and the filling of the Allegheny Reservoir required the condemnation of the small village of Corydon (1960 population: 165), which was located at the confluence of Willow Creek and the Allegheny River, the small village of Kinzua (1960 population: 458), which was located at the confluence of Kinzua Creek with the Allegheny River, and the hamlet of Onoville (in South Valley, New York, 1960 population unknown), and the hamlet of Quaker Bridge, located at the western edge of Allegany State Park on New York State Route 280. All residents were forced out through eminent domain and required to relocate.[10] The town of Elko, New York was also evacuated. Its incorporation was revoked in 1965; its territory is now part of Allegany State Park. The state also attempted to buy out and evacuate what was left of Red House at the same time, but that community's distance from the reservoir (the evacuation of Red House was meant only to expand Allegany State Park, not to clear out land to be flooded) and successful resistance prevented that from happening, and Red House (population 38 as of 2010) still maintains its incorporation.[11]

To partially compensate for the loss of these communities, the government set aside 305 acres of land for Seneca resettlement upstream in two New York communities: Steamburg (160 one-acre plots of land located south of the existing hamlet of the same name) and Jimerson Town (145 one-acre plots of land west of the city of Salamanca, near the then-extant community of Shongo). Jimerson Town eventually became one of the two capitals of the Seneca Nation.

The dam project also forced the displacement of Camp Olmsted, owned by the Chief Cornplanter Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The campsite had been located on bottomland along the Allegheny River, but dam construction forced it to be moved up the hillside.

Filmmaker Paul Lamont is producing a documentary, Lake of Betrayal: The Story of Kinzua Dam, interviewing descendants of Seneca forced from the homes razed during the construction of the dam. It is set to debut in May 2014 at the Ray Evans Seneca Theater.[12]


  1. ^ a b c U.S. Army Corps of Engineers - Kinzua Dam and Allegheny Reservoir
  2. ^ Indiana University of Pennsylvania - Libraries - Congressman John P. Saylor
  3. ^ Rhode Island QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau
  4. ^ Allegheny National Forest - About Us - Forest Facts
  5. ^ "Special Places". Allegheny National Forest. U.S. Forest Service. 
  6. ^ Seneca Nation of Indians v. United States, 262 F. 2d 27 (1958), retrieved February 3, 2011
  7. ^ Kennedy, John F. (August 9, 1961), "Letter to the President of the Seneca Nation of Indians Concerning the Kinzua Dam on the Allegheny River", retrieved February 3, 2011
  8. ^ Seneca Nation of Indians v. United States, 338 F. 2d 55 (1964), retrieved February 3, 2011
  9. ^ "Chief Cornplanter", Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, retrieved February 3, 2011
  10. ^ Hoover, William E. (2005). Kinzua: From Cornplanter to the Corps. Lincoln, NE: iUniverse. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-595-38116-6. 
  11. ^ Chu, Jennifer (February 6, 2004). Portrait of a shrinking town. Living on Earth. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
  12. ^ "Vision Maker Media Announces Public Media Content Fund Awards",; July 17, 2013

Further reading[edit]

  • Laurence Marc Hauptman, In the Shadow of Kinzua: The Seneca Nation of Indians since World War II. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2014.
  • Katherine Weist, "For the Public Good: Native Americans, Hydroelectric Dams, and the Iron Triangle," in R. L. Clow and I. Sutton (eds.), Trusteeship in Change: Toward Tribal Autonomy in Resource Management. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado, 2001; pp. 55-72.

External links[edit]