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Hands-on History

WCHS History Camp gets out of the classroom

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton Doug Helman, resource manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, speaks to the Warren County Historical Society’s History Camp atop the Kinzua Dam on Tuesday morning.

It’s one thing to study history in a book.

It’s another to study history in a hands-on way.

That’s what a group of fourth through eighth graders are doing this week as part of the Warren County Historical Society’s History Camp.

Monday saw campers tour downtown Warren – the courthouse, Historical Society, city building.

On Tuesday, they started branching out.

Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton History Camp campers peer over the side of the Kinzua Dam during a tour on Tuesday morning.

The day kicked off with an internal tour of the Kinzua Dam.

Doug Helman, resource manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, walked the students through the purposes and aims of the Kinzua Dam and the history – including displacement – of the dam’s creation.

He noted that the dam is 1,877 feet long – 1,050 feet of which is the earthen part – and “one of the largest dams on this side of the Mississippi” River.

The dual earthen and concrete components, he explained, make the Kinzua Dam somewhat of an anomaly.

He added that the dam is 195 feet wide at the base and 179 feet up from the original streambed.

245 steps take you from the top of the dam to the bottom – past the gates that control the flow to the Allegheny River.

As one descends, the temperature gets cooler and the floors and walls become more damp.

Small stalactites form in places, Helman explained, as water seeps through the dam and pulls the lime out of the concrete.

While it might sound foreboding, Helman said that a “leaky dam is a good dam,” explaining that if the dam didn’t leak, there would be no way for built up pressure to be released.

After the climb back to the top, campers were headed to the Cornplanter Monument at Riverview Cemetery and stops at the Seneca Iroquois National Museum and a railroad museum.

On Wednesday and Friday, the camp will stay in Warren County – Simpler Times Museum and Hearts Content on Wednesday and the Little Stone Church and Wilder Museum on Friday.

Thursday will include a trip to Erie for tours of the “Lettie G,” a 19th century fishing vessel, and the Maritime Museum as well as a tour of the Watson-Curtze Mansion & Museum.

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