During a recent tour of Safe Harbor Dam, I picked up a copy of the company’s 1989 Lower Susquehanna Historic Region Visitor’s Guide. The booklet unfolds into a 17″x19″ document with a beautifully detailed map of the lower Susquehanna with areas of historic interest highlighted. I thought this was a neat find as I have the 1951 edition of the same brochure.
Being a firm believer that “information wants to be free,” I have transcribed the document’s text and scanned the images. Both are included below.
If you would prefer to read the brochure in its original form, here’s the PDF.
Enjoying the Lower Susquehanna
The ageless Susquehanna river, long known to the historic namesake Susquehannock Indians, is an excellent fishery for many popular food and game fish. The damming of these river waters by the three hydroelectric projects—Safe Harbor, Holtwood and Conowingo—has created beautiful recreation “Lake Country” totaling 32 miles in length. These waters formed by the impounding of the dams each provide fishing, boating, picnicking, water sports and hiking recreation. The lakes are noted for bass, walleye, pike, crappie, bluegills, muskellunge, catfish, carp, eel, perch, stripers (bass) and some shad.
Adding to the beauty of this river valley are the results of a restoration program started many years ago. Both Safe Harbor and Holtwood have arboretums. More than a million trees of all species were planted and protected throughout the years. The Safe Harbor area is rich in Indian lore. Prior to the original dam construction in 1930, archeologists working under the direction of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, performed extensive explorations. More than 28,000 objects of primitive Indian art and industry were collected, cataloged and preserved for posterity.
Historic River A Famous Fishery
Fishermen comprise one of the largest single groups of sportsmen. Certainly, we at Safe Harbor can attest to that by the thousands of people of all ages who visit us each year. The hydroelectric plant stoplog bridge sees the little kids with old worn fishing poles and a can of worms — to the more sophisticated “waltonians” using custom gear and high-tech electronics.
Another popular fishing site is along the 800 foot bank running between the “point” at which the Susquehanna is joined by the Conestoga River and the power plant. Stair access ways have been constructed, blending into the stone of the bank. The estimated fishing area capacity size is about half that of the draft tube bridge. Fishing is permitted between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.; however, times may vary according to situations.
Know the river safety warnings and danger areas – use them wisely. You and your family can enjoy the river safely summer after summer. When you hear a siren and see the flashing strobe lights, leave the affected river areas accordingly Boaters are warned to take definite precautions while in the tailrace.
Susquehanna – A Natural Resource River of Power
One of America’s mighty rivers, the Susquehanna, provides the run-of-the-river energy for the Safe Harbor hydroelectric station, stretching 448 miles from Lake Otsego, New York, to the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland. The river drains a watershed covering 27,500 square miles, dropping an average of 2.4 feet per mile in elevation over its length. With respect to drainage area size, the river is second only to the St. Lawrence Seaway among the streams of North America flowing to the Atlantic.
In the last 43 miles between Columbia, Pennsylvania, and the Tidewater, the river drops 227 feet at an average of 5.28 feet per mile, more than twice the northern river elevation decrease. It is in this lower river area with its pristine steep hills and valleys that the river has its greatest drop in elevation and the economics of water power can best be converted to hydroelectric power. The river flow is subject to extreme fluctuations, varying between recorded levels equal to a ratio of more than 600 to 1. Before the construction of power dams on the river it was a series of tumbling rapids in a rock stream bed.
The Safe Harbor hydroelectric generating project is an excellent example of farsighted natural resource development by a private utility enterprise. Safe Harbor, one of the largest hydroelectric stations in the northern United States, is jointly owned by Baltimore Gas & Electric Company and Pennsylvania Power & Light Company. Electric power from Safe Harbor is fed into the Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland interconnection (PJM) which oversees the twelve electric investor-owner utility systems meeting the electrical needs of the middle Atlantic area, Delaware, District of Columbia, more than half of Maryland, and a small part of Virginia, which serves 21 million people over an area of 48,700 square miles. The PJM power system contains 500 generating units producing more than 170 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity. Safe Harbor is one of the few hydroelectric stations in the power grid contributing to the 4.70/o installed hydroelectric capacity. The P JM is only one of the many systems tying together massive electric generating capacities which extend across the nation into Canada and Mexico. This electrical energy travels at the speed of light; 186,000 miles per second.
Safe Harbor recreational facilities covering the impounded body of water, Lake Clarke, and its adjacent lands, parks and river islands encompasses a total area of 11,893 acres, or 18.6 square miles. Boating on the Lake takes in a water recreational surface area of 7,360 acres or 11.5 square miles. Additionally, there are 4 parks and 1 observation site located in both York and Lancaster counties covering 57 acres along with 558 acres of recreational land. Safe Harbor leases land parcels and island sites. Recreational activities include hunting, boating, fishing, four parks and duck hunting. Interest in park reservations or site leasing may be directed to the Property Superintendent (717) 872-0291.
Potential boating trouble spots and hazards exist both in front and in the tailraces of both Safe Harbor and Holtwood dams. Rocks in Safe Harbor’s tailrace depending upon river flows can be just below the water surface. Water levels can rise 2 to 9 feet within 10 minutes or more depending upon the number of generating units. Discharge at Safe Harbor powerhouse is signaled by loud sirens and flashing strobe lights. Sudden water elevation changes will occur both below Safe Harbor and Holtwood, possibly trapping fishermen or causing boating hazards to the unwary.
The Historic Region in which are located the Hydroelectric Developments on the Lower Susquehanna
The Susquehanna, a river of rare scenic beauty, flows through a region that is replete with points of historical interest. Here are three close-ups of various sections of the map.
The first map highlights the “farthest point north and east reached by Confederate troops (June 28, 1863 – General John B. Gordon). The bridge was burned by the retreating Union forces.”
One highlight from the following close-up is “Mt. Johnson Island – the only sanctuary in the world for the Bald Eagle. Under supervision of National Audubon Society.”
The third map highlights the Safe Harbor area. Here’s one lift out quote: “Site of last Conestoga (Susquehannock) Indian Town. Visited by Wm. Penn, 1701. Place of numerous councils between early governors of Pennsylvania and Indians.”
The Lower Susquehanna’s Historic Region from 1951
I also have the 1951 edition of the same brochure. Click here to see it in more detail.