Tunnelview Historic Site

by Jenny on 27 February 2016

Jonathan wanted to see how much water the Army Corps of Engineers let out of the gates at the Conemaugh Dam after this past week’s storms. That’s why today’s adventure took us and  Jonathan’s mom, Fran, to the Conemaugh River Lake. Then we drove down the road through the park to see Bow Ridge and the Tunnelview Historic Site.

The top photo is the Bow Ridge Tunnel as seen today.  Bet you couldn’t tell that this used to be a railroad tunnel, right? The rail line was moved to higher ground when the dam was built.

Here is the new, higher railroad bridge, as I saw it when I turned around after peeking through the bars into the Bow Ridge Tunnel:

2016-02-27 Conemaugh Dam-012

In order to reach that spot, we crossed the stone bridge which held the original rail line. Both of the bridges at Bow Ridge cross the Conemaugh River downstream from the dam.

Here is what the two bridges at Bow Ridge look like from below, at the Tunnelview Historic Site. I took these last autumn. Note the crude oil freight that traverses the Conemaugh River on its way to the Allegheny Mountains:

2015-09-12 Tunnelview-093

2015-09-12 Tunnelview-064

This is very close to the boundary between Indiana County and Westmoreland County. You can reach this by driving through the Conemaugh Lake National Recreation Area, or from the West Penn Trail.

Here – at the Tunnelview Historic Site – you will find a small pavilion, primitive restroom, parking lot, and canoe put-in. Also, the remains of the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal.  This is where Jonathan and I put-in when we kayaked to Saltsburg twice.

Oh! I have to tell you about the FIRST time Jonathan and I kayaked from this put-in:

We parked here at the Tunnelview Historic Site. We paddled downstream six miles, almost to Saltsburg. We stopped for lunch. It was June, and the current didn’t “seem” all that strong. As per our plan, we set off to paddle upstream back to our car.

Hey, I think that we have been paddling next to that same rock for the past ten minutes. What the – when did the current get that strong?

That’s right – we couldn’t paddle upstream. We portaged our kayaks upriver for a good part of the return trip. We smelled a dead animal rotting in the water. Jonathan didn’t tell me about the snakes that swam past us because I hate snakes.  I worried that we wouldn’t get back to our car before the sun set, that we would have to spend the night in the woods, and that somebody would find our car and report us as missing on the river. As I pulled my kayak over the stones on the riverback, I fantasized about the search party that would be sent after us, about our faces all over the news. (We did get back to our car and get the kayaks loaded right before it got dark.)

In hindsight, we should have paddled to Saltsburg, then hired the canoe outfitter in Saltsburg to take us upriver to our car. We talked about doing this when we realized that we couldn’t paddle against the current.  Why didn’t we? Because we’re stubborn.

On our second trip, we parked in Saltsburg and let the outfitter drive us to the put-in at the Tunnelview Historic Site. Then we paddled downriver to our car. Much better.

Life is easier when we aren’t stubborn.




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