Saint Michael in Cambria County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
The South Fork Dam
Although well-engineered for its time, years of neglect and unsound alterations had made the dam unsafe. By 1889, the water control tower had burned down, and the iron outlet pipes had been removed, making it impossible to control the lake level. Earlier breaches in the dam had been improperly filled with stone, dirt, brush, and even manure. The dam had settled and sagged at the center, inviting a washout. In addition, fish screens had reduced the capacity of the spillway to handle overflow.
On May 31, 1889, under the force of rising floodwaters, the dam gave way, creating the gaping hole in front of you. From here the flood wave thundered 14 miles downstream to Johnstown, killing more than 2,200.
“The dam itself, or the parts of it which were left standing, showed undoubtedly that it was well and thoroughly built....”
Erected by National Park Service.
Location. 40° 20.909′ N, 78° 46.526′ W. Marker is in Saint Michael, Pennsylvania, in Cambria County. Touch for map. Marker is on the grounds of the Johnstown Flood National Memorial, on the remains of the South Fork Dam overlooking the Little Conemaugh River. The marker is about 500 feet NE of the Hunters Run parking area, off Locust Street (PA Route 869). Marker is in this post office area: South Fork PA 15956, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Dam Melts Away (approx. ¼ mile away); Lake Conemaugh (approx. ¼ mile away); The Unger House (approx. ¼ mile away); May 31, 1889 (approx. ¼ mile away); Johnstown Flood (approx. half a mile away); American Legion Post 551 Veterans Memorial (approx. ¾ mile away); Saint Michael World War II Honor Roll (approx. 1.3 miles away); Staple Bend Tunnel (approx. 5.4 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Saint Michael.
Categories. • Disasters • Man-Made Features • Notable Events •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 22, 2009, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 3,700 times since then and 35 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on August 22, 2009, by William Fischer, Jr. of Scranton, Pennsylvania. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page.