Thursday, September 27, 2007

Austin Dam and Bayless Paper Mill

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After putting off a visit to my mother-in-law for far too long, I took a trip to the ruins of the Austin Dam waaay north in Potter County. From Wiki:
In 1900 the Bayless Paper company chose to construct a paper mill in the Freeman Run Valley (in Potter County, PA) and by 1909 the company realized that occasional dry seasons required the reserve water source. After finding a small earthen dam to be inadequate, the T. Chalkey Hatton firm built a large concrete dam across the valley. The dam was 50 feet high and 550 feet long and cost $86,000 to construct.

Within only a few months, problems were detected. The dam bowed more than 36 feet under the pressure and the concrete started cracking. The bowing was alleviated by using dynamite to blast a 13-foot space for the excess water to spill over. The cracking was claimed to be normal because of the drying cement.

On September 30, 1911, the dam failed and destroyed the Bayless Paper Mill, as well as much of the town of Austin, Pennsylvania. The damage was approximately $10 million dollars. It also resulted in the deaths of 78 people. The paper mill and dam were rebuilt but the papermill was lost in a later fire in 1933, and the new dam failed in 1942 with no loss of life.
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It was pretty awe-inspiring to look at the dam, to think that where we stood was once 40 feet of water. The area is a park now, complete with hiking trails and a stage for visiting musicians.
Even better than the dam ruins, though, were the Bayless paper mill ruins.

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We couldn't get across to it -- steep drops, heavy vegetation and venomous snakes do not mix -- but we're going back later in October. We'll rappel down the hill if we need to.


Worm said...

I visited a PA friend of mine back in 2002 or so, and we were up around this area for a camping trip. The mill wasn't hard to get to at all--as I recall there was an overgrown access road leading fairly close to the back side. He has a picture of me standing up in that tower, which I (stupidly) climbed.

Al Ebaster said...

Do you remember how you got to that access road? We tried the hiking trails, which just led us to mud, and there was what looked like a road that was gated off. Too many visitors, maybe? Hehe.

I've been told by the Austin Dam Memorial Association that they are working on making the mill part of the dam park. That would be cool!

Worm said...

I don't remember the specifics. I know we hopped over a traffic gate at some point, but nothing that was designed to keep pedestrians out. If you're facing the mill like your pictures are oriented, the road approaches from the left side, close to the hill in the background.

schwa said...

I have never heard of Austin Dam, I want to check that out. This is a really nice blog. I have been working on a similar website you should check it out

Anonymous said...

Just got back from a motorcycle trip there. Pictures just don't do it justice. I later parked across from the Bayless ruins and walked through the stream. I have posted pictures from inside the factory on If you guys want any of the pics just let me know.


Josh Cooney said...

I live in Austin. Cool pictures. You can access the Paper Mill as it's referred to by locals by crossing the Elliot Street bridge and then turning right on Railroad Street. For a better understanding use Google Maps.

- MyHog, those are cool pics on your myspace. They remind me of when I was a teenager, and the last time I was in there.

Al Ebaster said...

Hi Josh, thanks for the info! As of October I'm an Austin resident too, and I'd like to finally get to the Paper Mill.

Thanks again for the comment, I guess I'll see you around town!

Patrick said...

i would love to be a part of this trip! please let me know!

Al Ebaster said...

Hey Patrick, send me an email at if you're interested in joining us. We're planning on exploring the site soon.

Suzy Stellar said...

Do you still go to check out places? If you are up for some thrills, let me know.

Anonymous said...

I have climbed around on the old buildings you have to go a round about way to get there and travel on foot. There is said to be bodies at the bottom of the holding tanks for the old paper mill. It's pretty cool to climb around but very dangerous.

Austin Flood Centennial said...

Plans are underway for the Austin Flood Centennial event. We have a great weekend planned for September 30 – October 2, 2011, kicking off with a commemorative ceremony to honor the victims of the Austin Flood. Then we’ll be turning back the clock and partying like it is 1911 with living history actors, hot air ballon rides, vintage baseball, woodhick games, demonstrations of 1911 crafts and trades, live music, ethnic foods and more. Visit the Austin Flood Centennial website at for more information. Hope all friends and fans of the dam will join us!

Anthony Gajewski said...

Real cool place to explore and check out , barely anyone there so it was real cool to hike around get great pics , even gift shop there

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