Saturday, September 30, 2017

Tupper Lake Dams: The Dammedest Place

Mike PrescottTAUNY, Traditional Arts in Upstate New York, will host a lunchtime program, TAUNY Talk & Taste: “Tupper Lake Dams: The Dammedest Place” with Mike Prescott on Tuesday, October 3, from 12 to 1 pm. TAUNY’s current exhibit tells the stories of the dams and powerhouses built along the Raquette River in the 1950s and more recently.

One alternate plan for the river would have left much of Tupper Lake as we know it under thirty feet of water. Raquette River guide and historian Mike Prescott will give a presentation on the other river – the other Adirondack geography – that might have been. Guests will also have the opportunity to enjoy a specially crafted meal by Big Spoon Kitchen, inspired by the granola, power bars, water, and fruit that Mike usually takes on a paddle. Big Spoon’s “paddle lunch” will include a healthy wrap, an apple, and their signature chocolate peanut butter power balls.

Mike Prescott has always been interested in knowing the history of the areas he paddles. A few years ago, a friend told him of a proposed dam at Tupper Lake that was never constructed, because, as the story went, the engineers could not find a good “anchoring” spot for the base of the dam. Upon further study, Mike learned there is a bit more to his friend’s story, but in short it was absolutely correct.

Since the early 1850’s, dams were proposed for the Tupper Lake region for various reasons. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, saw mills along the lower Raquette River (Potsdam, Norwood, and Hewittville) operated on water power. They depended on a constant flow of water to power their mills and to “float” logs to be sawed. To that end it was proposed to build an extensive dam at Tupper Lake to hold back water from the early spring thaws and gradually release it during the drier late summer and fall. These “containment dams” were designed to do just that.

The state of New York conducted extensive surveys of Adirondack watersheds, and the Fourth Annual Report of the State Water Supply Commission of New York (1909), report also outlined proposed dams to be constructed along the Hudson River, Schroon River, Sacandaga River, and the Raquette River, among others. Ultimately, there were five proposals for containment dams to be constructed in and around the Tupper Lake area.

The cost for the lunch is $12 or $10 for TAUNY Friends. Guests can reserve their lunch by October 2nd by calling TAUNY at (315) 386-4289 or at TAUNY’s website. There is a suggested donation of $5 for this presentation, for those not purchasing lunch.

This program is a part of the program series for TAUNY’s latest exhibit, “‘Look Down, You’ll See Our Tracks’: Raquette River Dam Stories.” This exhibit tells the stories of people involved in or significantly affected by the construction of the hydroelectric dams and powerhouses along the Raquette River. The exhibit will be on view at The TAUNY Center until October 21, 2017.

The TAUNY Center is located at 53 Main Street, Downtown Canton. For more information, click here.

You can read some of Mike’s other dam history here.

Photo of Mike Prescott provided.

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