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Old 02-06-2011, 09:41 AM
Location: Spencer, Ohio
365 posts, read 954,474 times
Reputation: 544


Hey all, I decided to share some photos I've taken while hiking around upper & lower Girard Lakes as well as a little bit of information behind their creation. If anyone has anything to add to this, please do. I think I've exhausted all of my online resources.

Upper Girard Lake and Spillway. This is the second of two man made lakes on Squaw Creek and the only one that still exists today. Construction of this earth dam lake was completed in 1929. Its height is 54.6 feet with a length of 2720 feet. Shown here is the spill tube which allows water to flow back into Squaw Creek and into Lower Girard Lake. I was quite taken by this, I've never seen anything like it before.

Spillway from below the lake. I'm assuming the smaller pipe on the left is an additional drain tube.

Looking below to the spill tube and Squaw Creek. You can also see an old pony truss bridge in the background, which was probably built at the same time as (if not before) the lakes we created. Sorry, I'm a bridge nut too!

Being the adventurous person that I am, I decided to go up inside the spillway. On this day the water was really flowing. You can also see two other gated pipes built into the dam to help regulate the level of the lake/flow.

A little further in... looking up through the spillway.

This photo was taken a few months later, in the dead of summer. The fellow in the photo is my buddy Jo, who is making an attempt to run up the spillway. If I remember correctly, I think I told him I'd buy Dunkin Donuts if he reached the pipe just above his head. Being the nice guy that I am, I ended up treating anyway... haha! But you get a better idea of just how big the spillway really is.

Heading back out...

Take note of the guardrail. Apparently it was installed shortly after a sledding accident took place here. From what I gather from friends who live in the area, this was a popular place to go sled riding. To quote one of them, "It was fun back in the day....you'd hit that hump in the middle of the hill and go flying like the general lee with roscoooooe and enis hot on your tail" hence the City of Girard being forced to take action to stop any wintertime sledding activities here!

One more shot back on top. Quite a few people hike down this stretch of the dam to the numerous trails in the woods that surround Girard Lake. I've taken my mtn bike back here a few times and there's some really great trails to ride on. There's also some very muddy areas that weren't as pleasant to ride. Also shown here is mostly unkept shoreline, another problem for the City of Girard. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, large plants, weeds and trees put the earthdam walls at risk due to their root systems, which could possibly weaken the structure. In the past the city has gone as long as 6 years without maintaining the grounds.

Before moving on to the lower lake, I'd also like to add that the City of Girard has these lakes, as well as the trails, listed as "A place for our residents to enjoy", but the area is posted "No Trespassing. No Fishing. No Swimming". Not really sure what that's all about as the no trespassing portion cancels out everything listed above.

Now on to Lower Girard Lake:

Squaw Creek as it flows from Upper Girard Lake to Lower Girard Lake.

...and under Route 11

We actually made this journey in the opposite order of how I'm posting these photos (I just noticed that, whoops!) Anyway, On the other side of Route 11 we stopped to take in the scenery. In this photo my friend Jo is up on top of the viaduct. I looked up to reply to something he said when I noticed this spray painted message. Of course I took the photo before I let him in on the secret! Hi Gump!

Preparing to make the trip to the other side. Bikes in tow. It was was too slippery to ride through the viaduct due to all the algae. Just remember, we've already been here before, so we're heading in the opposite direction for the sake of this post.

A view of the now dry lake bed of lower Girard Lake. It's still awfully pretty, even without water.

Following an ATV trail across the lake bed.

Another set of ATV trails...

Lower Girard Lake Dam. It's construction on Squaw Creek was completed around 1917 as a means to provide water to the Ohio Leatherworks and many other industrial sites in the City of Girard.

In the mid 2000's, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources ordered the City of Girard (the dam's owner) to either repair the dam or tear it down because it was unsafe. As a result, the lake was drained and the dam was breached. It's unlikely that it will ever be rebuilt due to Girard's economic woes. Girard had a chance to recieve 16 million in government funds to repair the dam but that came with the stipulation that the city had to put in just over 5 million of it's own money into the project, which Girard didn't have.

The dam from the other side. Obviously in a very deteriorated state. The lower righthand corner shows one of the 13 breach holes cut into the dam.

One last image taken from Bing Maps... An arial photo showing the size of the dam.

Hope you all enjoyed these! I'll add more this Spring once the weather warms up again!
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Old 02-06-2011, 06:44 PM
Location: Cortland, Ohio
3,245 posts, read 8,075,320 times
Reputation: 1400
Thanks for sharing Northwoods. I love seeing the lower lake change throughout the year during my morning commute down route 11. I wonder if the V&M project and new businesses popping up on rt 422 will allow the city to finally come up with the money to fix the dam? Should be an interesting next 5 years here in the Mahoning Valley.
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Old 02-07-2011, 09:34 AM
Location: Boardman, OH
602 posts, read 1,508,076 times
Reputation: 342
Interesting. I thought the lake was drained for environmental reasons... Nice pics, I might have to check out that area sometime.
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Old 02-07-2011, 07:19 PM
Location: Spencer, Ohio
365 posts, read 954,474 times
Reputation: 544
Before the dam was breached there was talk of installing a water filtration plant on the lower lake. The plan was to sell water to neighboring cities as a means of creating income for the city. But once again, the cost creating such a facility, as well as installing pipes to carry the water to those areas, put the kabosh on that.

I'm not sure if there's existing pipelines already in place in Girard. I've read that a few of the steel mills did use water from the lakes back in the day, I've never seen anything to support that though, other than the numerous pipes that run through the site of the old leatherworks anyway. I was under the assumption that the creek was dammed support the needs of the leatherworks alone.

As far as V&M is concerned, does Girard still own that land? I thought Youngstown had control over it now. But since you mentioned it, I kinda wonder about the water situation there... especially in environmental terms.

Truemuck - I think the main concern was the 30 plus residences downstream. The state was worried that the dam wouldn't stand up to "catastrophic rain conditions", and that if the water levels rose too fast the dam wouldn't be able to hold it. After seeing the dam firsthand, I'd have to wonder the same myself... It's in very bad shape.
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Old 05-11-2011, 07:47 AM
Location: Girard, OH
9 posts, read 72,060 times
Reputation: 13
Sigma, thanks for posting and providing the awesome pics! i recently moved to the girard area in march. i visited this area briefly last night as i came upon it during a bike ride. i had no idea it even existed. i didnt have time to explore last night so i was thinking about taking advantage of the awesome weather tonight. I googled girard lakes today at work and it brought me to your post! then i remembered i was a member on this site and i had forgot about it for at least a year or two lol

those pics you took are awesome. im so pumped because it looks as though there is definitely more to see than what i observed just from the top of the steps that come up by the spillway side. i saw those trails and want to check them out tonight. excited to get my bike out there too after i see which ones will be the best to ride on!!

its stumbling upon things like this that make this area beautiful to live in. we are our issues like every town or city does, but we also have good people, hard workers, quaint side roads and houses whose owners take pride in them no matter how big or small. yesterdays ride- with the sun and the smell of fresh cut grass, and all the people i saw out exercising or doing yard work reminded me of all this.
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Old 05-15-2011, 06:56 AM
Location: Spencer, Ohio
365 posts, read 954,474 times
Reputation: 544
You're welcome Ruggergal! There's definitely a lot of trails to explore out there, so I think you'll enjoy it. From what I've seen, most of the trails around the lake are rough and fairly muddy (although I have heard that there are better trails to ride further back than where I have been). The trails on and around the dry lake bed are in much, much better condition -- most of them are hard-packed and fast. I will say one thing though, in the dead of summer the deer flies are awful, especially back in the woods, so wear a good bug repellent!

If you see someone on a white Gary Fisher, or shooting photos around either lake, swing over a say hello, chances are it's probably me, lol! I go out there atleast once every couple weeks.

Edit: You should check out Poland Woods in Poland too... loads and loads of trails there and beautiful scenery. I'll try to do a photo-post sometime this Spring, if this rain ever settles down!
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