Beaver Dam Lake Reconstruction Uncovers Century Old History
By Edie Johnson
At the juncture of 3 of the area’s historic towns, Cornwall, New Windsor and Blooming Grove, lies land that once looked like other areas of the county that were and remain fertile Black Dirt Valleys. Over 100 years ago a dam was added to retain the water, and the former farmland became the 164-acre Beaver Dam Lake. Pictures of the lake today, now emptied in order to rebuild the crumbling dam, show hopscotch like property divisions, remnants of orderly stone walls that marked the lands of the individual farm owners back in the day.
The lake then became one of the most popular recreational sites for summer vacationers and a water enthusiasts’ heaven with attractive cottages and homes along its shorelines. Now it has temporarily returned to a black dirt valley, except for some rivulets of water that maintain a flow from the north entrance where the water comes down from Newburgh’s Silver Stream.
Deconstruction Became Urgent For years the dam’s retaining walls had been crumbling, and after a spate of hurricanes and suspected climate-related storms, when New York State did assessments of dams posing a serious danger to the surrounding community Beaver Dam made the list. With well over a century of hard use and limited repairs, and with the depth of water and resulting extreme pressure at its retaining walls, if it failed it would have put many residents and their homes in Salisbury Mills’ properties and lives at risk.
During careful deconstruction, 2 gate sluices were opened and a siphon helped remove the water. The siphon has since been removed, and as you can see from the photograph below, much of the work has now been completed.
In his latest reconstruction update, Lake District Chairman Lawrence Rossini cautioned residents and visitors that the while the base of the lake may look empty and dry, if anyone walks out onto it there are numerous areas that are quicksand-like and very dangerous. It will likely remain restricted from any access or use until next year.
The original stone fencing that once divided farmland, Rossini said that along with protruding tree stumps, the stones provide an ecosystem of its own which, when the lake is full, supports important aquatic flora and fauna for fish and other small aquatic life, and are not permitted to be removed.
Reconstruction is expected to be completed by year’s end, at which time the lake will be allowed to refill. As of last report the project is on target. According to Blooming Grove Highway Superintendent, Wayne Kirkpatrick who gets updates nearly every week, once the work on the new dam is done and officially approved it is expected to take no more than 30-60 days to refill.