Austin Dam Memorial Park: Site of ‘the dam that could not break’

Austin Dam

Austin Dam Memorial Park: Site of ‘the dam that could not break’

Potter County | Dark Skies Landscape of the Pennsylvania Wilds

By LaKeshia Knarr

Nestled in a valley in Austin, PA, along the winding stream of Freeman Run and Route 872, are the ruins of the Bayless Paper Mill – key features of the Austin Dam Memorial Park.

Measuring 50 feet tall and 540 feet wide when it was built in the early 1900s, the dam in Austin was referred to as “the dam that could not break.” Little did the builders know, the dam would give way in 1911 and decimate several downstream communities, ultimately killing 78 people and causing $10 million in damage.

At the time, it was the second worst flood disaster in Pennsylvania’s history and the sixth worst dam failure in U.S. history. The disaster led to national reforms on dam construction and inspection.

Today, the ruins stand as a reminder of the tragic events that took place back in 1911.

Nearby, visitors will find a monument honoring those who lost their lives, as well as a pavilion housing historic photos of the dam. Primitive camping and fishing are popular activities at the site, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.

Each year, crowds flock to the historic site for the annual “Austin Dam Show,” an outdoor music festival held at the 75-acre Austin Dam Association Memorial Park among the ruins.

Learn more about the Austin Dam Memorial Park at

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