September 23, 2010

A Drought? Where? Not here in Southwestern Pennsylvania!

Filed under: FEATURE STORIES — carolyncholland @ 1:30 am




     The word seeped into conversations. There’s a drought. Yes, there’s a drought—here in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

      The word on 2010’s drought came first from some people living in Slippery Rock Township. They have water problems. The water supplying their spring, which normally supplies six families and fills a pond, is low. It is reduced to a trickle. Drought conditions exist. The water in their pond is lower than their overflow pipe. The situation is serious—they have no water.

     Meanwhile, stepping on our lawn in Laurel Mountain Borough, east of Ligonier, is like feet squeezing water out of a sponge. It seems the rain doesn’t stop. Since I prefer to line-dry rather than dryer-dry my clothes, I find few summer days that are nice enough to do laundry. It is piling up and husband is complaining. Yes, a hot spell comes in August, but the days are mighty humid. Some laundry takes three days to dry.


Nemacolin Indian Trail

     Two weeks ago Monte and I took a day off. I needed to do more research for my novel. One character, Louis des Isles, came to Alexandria, Virginia, from France with a deed to land located between the Scioto and Muskingum rivers in Ohio. He was among the first Frenchmen traveling from Alexandria to Winchester, Virginia to Wills Creek (Cumberland), Maryland. From there they followed the Nemacolin Indian Trail to Redstone, on the Monongahela River. Redstone is the current Brownsville, Pennsylvania.

     Our road trip plan was to start at Addison, Pennsylvania, and  to follow the Indian Trail to Redstone. Since we started midday, we only made it to Uniontown.

Cucumber Falls---Trickle of water

     We stopped at Cucumber Falls in Ohiopyle. Taking the steep steps down the hill we passed a large drop-off with two spots of little trickles of water. This couldn’t be the Falls, I thought, and trudged onward, looking for the Falls. I ended up on the banks of the beautiful Youghiogheny River. But where was the Falls? When my husband caught up with me, he told me the drop-off was the Falls. I’d finally visited Cucumber falls, a site I’d heard about from all my photography friends. And no water!

     Our next stop was the Youghiogheny River. References state that the river was 200 yards wide at the point where the Frenchmen crossed it.

     Today, that crossing is flooded by the Youghiogheny Dam. I had little expectation of getting a sense of the crossing point, since it is now a lake that obscures the river.

     We arrived at a boat dock near a bridge that crosses the river in Addison. I walked to the dock just as a fisherman arrived.

     “The Tub Run dock is closed,” he said, “because the river is so low.”

Under the bridge---little water

     He pointed to a stone wall and said the water usually was “that high.” News reports stated that the river was about fifteen feet lower than it should be.

     I walked across mud cracks on what should have been the Youghiogheny Lake basin, and looked down the river. It appeared to be about 200 yards wide, the width described in my reference works. Perfect. I’d thought the only photograph I’d get would be a lake, and here the drought conditions gave me the perfect image, a river bounded by woods.


     A friend asked me if I ever watched the news.

     “No,” I said. “I read the newspaper. And I looked all over the Internet. There was little word about a drought.”

     “Well,” she said. “It’s serious. Westmoreland County is among numerous western Pennsylvania counties on a voluntary limited water use.”

     Since our expedition exploring the Nemacolin Indian Trail I’ve noticed that the water in the Loyalhanna Creek, along Route 30 between Ligonier and Kingston Dam, is pretty low. However, I don’t think it’s unusually low for mid-September. And the water in Washington Furnace Run, behind Laurel Mountain Borough, isn’t exceptionally low.

     But six families in Slippery Rock Township are frustrated, putting up with little to no water. I guess there is a drought.

     I just didn’t notice.




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Youghiogheny River AKAs

1 Comment

  1. There is an interactive map of Pennsylvania drought conditions at

    Comment by Peter — September 24, 2010 @ 9:49 am

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