Johnstown Flood Lakebed Restoration

Johnstown Flood National Memorial » Johnstown Flood Lakebed Restoration » Document List

Johnstown Flood National Memorial (JOFL) was established by Congress in 1964 to commemorate the Johnstown Flood of 1889 and interpret the events leading up to the flood, the flood itself, and its effects on Johnstown and the nation.

JOFL leadership in the 1970s and again in the 1980s undertook the challenge of restoring the Park's primary cultural resource in order to reach a goal identified in the General Management Plan: "To preserve and maintain the cultural resources and the setting of the South Fork Dam to approximate conditions in 1889." The project created impactful vistas that gave visitors a sense of the magnitude of former Lake Conemaugh and the ramifications of the ensuing flood. The resulting landscape, free of trees and shrubs, closely resembled the lakebed as it would have appeared shortly after the lake was void of water. However, the area was not maintained and was allowed to partially reforest throughout the 1990s into the current time.

Current Park leadership decided to return the lakebed and surrounding area to the condition that was achieved by 1989. Specific vista points to be restored include the Visitor Center, the north and south dam abutments and the Lake Road pullout. The Park has identified the following five phases for re-implementation of the project with specific objectives:

Phase I - Clearing: mechanically remove as many trees and woody shrubs as possible to expose the lakebed, abutments and sluiceway while ensuring minimal impacts to wetlands and stream;

Phase II - Planting/Treatment: seed areas outside wetlands and stream bed to propagate desired grass and plant community; if necessary, treat remaining/recurring undesired vegetation with herbicide;

Phase III - Burning: further remove/discourage continued growth of woody and invasive species by introducing prescribed fire as a resource management tool to further maintain the area and promote the desired low-lying native grass and plant community that can be maintained by the Park without large future projects that again require expansive, costly measures;

Phase IV - Monitoring: inventory/monitor project area to track and report on progress; recommend options to further achieve and/or maintain desired end-state;

Phase V - Maintenance: conduct routine activities to maintain desired conditions; this will include Park-lead activities such as mowing, as well as partner-lead activities such as prescribed fire.

Contact Information

Brenda Wasler
Natural Resource Manager