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Adam Schellhammer, district manager of Monroe County Conservation District, surveys the pond created by the dry dam. He thinks this is one of “the most beautiful places in the county.”

Goose Pond Dry Dam


Trail information: This is a mostly easy, out-and-back walk of about 2.25 miles on a wide, grassy trail. One section leads steeply down to the creek. Tick protection is essential. **This dry dam is closed to the public.**

Where: In Barrett Township, Pa.


The wide, flat top of the berm makes for easy walking.

Disaster prevention under your feet: Hike a dry dam

By Carol Hillestad


I’m walking the wide, flat top of a dry dam. The sky is a huge, blue bowl. Sloping away to left and right are bright, open meadows of native grasses, milkweed, black-eyed Susans, daisies and goldenrod. More than 100 feet below, Goose Pond Run glitters.

“We’ve been working on cutting down the woody growth,” says Adam Schellhammer, district manager of Monroe County Conservation District. “Keeping these meadows free of shrubs and trees helps keep the dam structurally sound.”

The conservation district’s work here helps prevent flooding downstream. After the devastating flood of 1955, when so many lives were lost and so much property destroyed, this earthen dam was built to prevent such horror from ever happening again.

During major storms, this dry dam fills, slows the water, and controls its release, keeping a wall of debris-laden water from inundating homes and businesses downstream.

So keeping the dam intact is important. But nature is all connected, and we humans meddle at our peril. Creeks naturally meander in their floodplains. Floods are natural, too. Water goes where it must go. Every time we build anything in a floodplain or on a stream — including a dry dam — we’re committing to maintaining it, basically forever, against nature.

Walking through the grass, we kick up moths, bumble bees, honey bees, butterflies, grasshoppers and crickets. Dragonflies zoom. We hear cicadas. Adam has seen eagles perch on dead snags, wading birds, ducks, and geese on the water. An elegant great blue heron flaps lazily overhead.

These wide meadows are pollinator heaven, Adam says. “The habitat value of this land, the biodiversity, is incredible.” He’s seen wood turtles here, and of course deer, though a neighboring stewardship-minded hunt club keeps them in check.

That’s why the understory hasn’t been browsed to the ground along the woodland path that curves down toward the creek. We pass multiple habitats in a few minutes — a healthy wetland full of native cattails, a rocky barren outcrop with reindeer lichen, and more pollinator meadowland.

When we reach Goose Pond Run, the dark, cool, damp microclimate created by a stand of hemlocks is refreshing on this hot day. Adam turns over rocks in the creek and finds caddis fly casings. A kingfisher rattles out its staccato call. A mayfly looks lit from within by a shaft of sunlight.

This cold, pristine run rises about a mile north and 300 feet higher up, in an ancient, boggy wetland. From there, it flows through hemlock ravines and the dry dam and then continues winding down behind backyards and businesses into Canadensis, to Brodhead Creek. Swelled by water from dozens of creeks like this, the Brodhead makes its way to join the Delaware River, and becomes drinking water for millions of people.

If you’ve ever driven Route 390 North down the hill into Canadensis after the foliage has fallen, you may have noticed something odd about the view ahead. On the distant hillside, a slash of land stands out. That’s the Goose Pond Run dry dam.

Come see it up close, and learn about keeping drinking water safe and pure, with Adam as your guide.

Carol Hillestad is a hike leader and writer for Get Outdoors Poconos, a grant-funded series administered by Brodhead Watershed Association.


Photos by Carol Hillestad


Far below the berm of the dry dam, Goose Pond Run continues its flow to Brodhead Creek.  


This lichen-covered boulder marks the way to the creek.    
The dry dam is kept in “early successional” meadows, which protects the integrity of the dam and provides habitat for ground nesting birds, small mammals and pollinators.  


A healthy wetland abounds with native cattails along the trail leading to the creek. Queen Anne’s lace is among many wildflowers along the Goose Pond Run Dry Dam.




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