Monday, July 06, 2009

Let the River Flow

As noted in my previous post, I spent part of the holiday weekend checking out Simkins Dam on the Patapsco River in Ellicott City. Simkins Dam is part of the closed Simkins Industries paper recycling plant on River Road just across the Howard County border in Baltimore County. According to this story by Timothy B. Wheeler in The Sun last week, the dam is slated to be demolished.

“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Tuesday that it has awarded a grant to American Rivers to dismantle Simkins and Union dams, two of four dams obstructing the flow of the Lower Patapsco.”

Union Dam in Daniels is fairly accessible while getting to Simkins is a little more problematic. This old dog parked his truck in the upper loading area of the plant and then climbed down a steep slope to the dam. It was well worth it. The river is beautiful this time of year.

This whole area on the border of Howard and Baltimore counties is pretty awesome. Keeping it that way in the future may prove to be a challenge. On Saturday, at a neighbor’s picnic, I spoke with a guy who lives in Catonsville who told me that Simkins Industries is trying to sell the 55 acre site that includes the old mill worker homes that line Thistle Road.


boborama said...

Interesting, I had not seen this information in The Sun.

Even more interesting is that when I worked as a Naturalist in Patapsco Valley State Park back in the early nineties, we included stops at these dams in most of the nature walks and hikes we led throughout the park. These dams can be hazards to people canoeing, rafting or swimming in the river. In particular, the dam at the Hollofield section can be very hazardous. As a demonstration we used to toss an adult lifejacket into the river upstream, and then time how long it would be caught up in the hydralic formed in the break of the dam. Usually the floatation device would appear and re-appear several times as it was sucked under and spit out in the current over the course of ten minutes or so. "See," we'd tell our classes of canoeists, "this is why you don't want to try to shoot through here...."

Lower down in the river is the fourth and perhaps most interesting dam, under the swing bridge. It was built as one of the first hydro-electric dams in this area, and has some historic value. The state park headquarters off of Rte. 40 has some pretty thick files of historical photos and documentation on these dams that is well worth seeing and reading. You'd be amazed at how much the area has changed since the turn of the century, with forest now covering most of the areas that were clear cut for farming or timber back during the late 19th century.

Serena said...

Thanks for spreading the word about this project! Since I've been in the area, the Patapsco has quickly become one of my favorite rivers.

On a side note, I know the state has expressed interest in acquiring the Simkins property to add to the Park's holdings. My hope is that, with this restoration project, we will continue to see things moving in that direction and see this resource continue to be protected.

Jim Thompson said...

Jim Thompson from DNR Fisheries here, glad to see some additional folks are on board with the dam removals! DNR Fisheries is really excited to be working with American Rivers on this project and believe this could have significant ecological (as well as public safety) benefits for the Patapsco River. I'd be more then delighted to give a presentation on fish passage and dam removals in Maryland if there is enough local interest.

Anonymous said...

I just hate seeing a piece of history getting destroyed...I better get some pix in soon!

Anonymous said...

I would like to see a presentation on fish passage and dam removals in Maryland Jim! Set it up..they will come!

wordbones said...

Anon 7:26,

I agree. Maybe we can get HoCoMoJo to cover it.

How about it Jim?


Jim said...

I'm all for having a public presentation on Dam Removal and Fish Passage in general. I'd be happy to speak about the program and how dam removal could very well restore the Patapsco River and become a restoration project that gets National attention. Not sure who the "lead" is but you can contact me through the DNR Fisheries Web site or through our (out-dated at the moment) Fish Passage Web Page.