Photo guide to Pennsylvania's Kinzua Lake Region
An Allegheny Almanac
Online Tour of the
Kinzua Dam and

About 6 miles east of
Warren, PA
on Kinzua Road
(Route 59)

Fishing in
the Kinzua Region
All about the Kinzua Dam  
Pronounced "kin-zoo," by local residents, and "kin-zew-uh" in
the Seneca language, the
Kinzua Dam is one of the largest
dams in the United States east of the Mississippi River. Its
construction in the 1960's was controversial because it forced
the relocation of the entire town of Kinzua and 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
body of water, Kinzua Lake, the Allegheny Reservoir.

A lawsuit against breaking the oldest U.S. treaty which
guaranteed perpetual Seneca ownership of the land had
been argued by the Society of Friends (Quakers) but it lost
when the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to review a lower
court finding in 1961.

The American country western singer, Johnny Cash, wrote a
song about the plight of the Seneca Indians, whose leader,
Chief Cornplanter, was a significant figure in the French and
Indian War and the American Revolution and annexation of
Pennsylvania land to the U.S.

This was one of the first Native American rights songs and
pre-dated popular protest folk music of the later 1960s.

Visit this link to to listen and watch Johnny Cash sing it
with June Carter and Pete Seeger accompanying.

Authorized by the Flood Control Acts of 1936,  1938, and
1941, actual construction was begun by the U.S. Army Corps
of Engineers in 1960 and completed in 1965. Pittsburgh
businessmen had been lobbying Congress for this for
decades prior to its authorization.

As early as 1910 they had been lobbying for such a project to
protect the valley in which Pittsburgh is located. The dam
itself may be emblematic of a maturing country in which the
post-Civil War industrial revolution catapulted our nation into
preeminence just after World War I. Incognizant of the
consequences, mineral and timber extraction turned our area
into the "Allegheny Brush Patch." The entire area around
Warren was denuded of its trees with oil derricks taking their

Destruction of the watershed amplified any flooding because
the terrain could not sponge up any water, channeling it into
the river with dire consequences here and particularly

The watershed destruction was so bad that in 1923 the U.S.
Congress took over, establishing the half-million acre
Allegheny National Forest, perhaps one of the greatest
reclamation stories in our history.

The main purpose of the dam is flood control on the
Allegheny and Ohio rivers. This dam controls drainage on a
watershed of 2180 square miles 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

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 lake to
within three feet of its maximum storage capacity. Over $247
million in downstream damages were prevented.

Engineering notes: Length of Dam 1,897 feet,  Maximum
Height of Dam 179 feet Earthfill, in Cubic Yards 3,000,000
Concrete, in Cubic Yards 500,000 Penstocks, Diameter (Pipes
Through Dam) 19 feet.

The nearest city to the dam is Warren, Pennsylvania. Situated
six miles east of the city on Route 59, it is open for public
tours. The dam is located within the half-million acre
Allegheny National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania. A
boat marina,  beach, and extensive hiking trails,
campgrounds, and vistas are located nearby. A proposal to
set aside some of this land as wilderness in the 1990s was
unsuccessful but did create the Allegheny National
Recreation Area, comprising 23,000 acres which established
the use of the area for camping, fishing, boating, hiking,
canoeing and kayaking and other outdoor nature activities.

Congressman William Clinger and U.S. Senators Arlen
Specter and John Heinz did succeed, however, in creating an
Allegheny Wilderness Land, from several islands
downstream, as well as at Hearts Content and Hickory Creek,
south of the dam, and other small areas. Hearts Content
contains the last virgin forest in our part of the world. It was
set aside by its owners and has become a
Registered Natural

Today, lumbering and mineral extraction maintain a
preeminent position in our local and national economies
under management of the state and federal governments.
Significantly, the U.S. Government has classified this region
uncommonly as "Rural Industrial" due to its role as an
industrial powerhouse in businesses related to oil, plastics,
steel, transportation, and even apparel. It is truly a place
where nature and industry thrive side by side.

Many years ago, The Allegheny National Forest estimated
that there are more than a million visits annually here by
outdoor enthusiasts who come to canoe, camp, hike, fish,
hunt, boat, and bike.

Notes on pronunciation: Noted local radio host LeRoy
Schneck pronouced the dam's name as "Kin-zew-a" as did
legendary singer Johnny Cash.
article updated 2/13/17

Chris Lareau
Books about our Seneca Heritage
arranged at
Warren, Pennsylvania
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