When I was a kid 50 years ago, I used to play on Pigeon Creek. I remember having fun finding junk along the shore of Monongahela River and at the mouth of the stream. I certainly don’t remember it being this beautiful, and it probably wasn’t so lovely back in the day.
In 1967 Pigeon Creek was in such bad shape that the Pennsylvania Fish Commission refused to stock fish in it. There were three main problems: (1) raw sewage, (2) acid mine drainage (3) warm water due to poor tree cover. According to an article published in the August 30, 1967 edition of The Daily Republican:
Contributing factors to the state refusal are the dumping of raw sewage by the towns of Ellsworth, Cokeburg, and Bentleyville …
The creek also suffered from untreated acid mine drainage (AMD) flowing from the abandoned Dunkirk mine in Carroll Township. Another contributing factor in the state’s refusal to stock the creek was that it was “poor in cover,” meaning that few overhanging trees shaded the stream to keep the water cool.
In 1967 Kasmier W. Sala, a local businessman and environmentalist, set about to address the first two these problems. He was instrumental in getting the funding to construct the first passive AMD treatment facility in the state of Pennsylvania (and possibly the first in the entire US). You can see the treatment facility right next to the American Legion on route 481. Mr. Sala, with help from Pennsylvania state representative Austin J. Murphy, was instrumental in pressuring the state of Pennsylvania to require the municipalities of Ellsworth, Cokeburg, and Bentleyville to cease dumping raw sewage into the creek and construct a sewage treatment plant.
Mother Nature is helping with the third problem of poor tree cover. In the 1800s and early 1900s, the land in the Pigeon Creek watershed was so heavily logged that old photos of the area show the landscape almost stripped of trees. It took decades, but as you’ll see in the video, the forested parts are recovering. Now the The Valley Inn Sportsmen’s Association regularly stock the creek with trout. Fishing on the creek is now a family tradition for dozens of people in town.
There is more work to be done, however. The tree cover still needs to be improved in spots, and like all streams in western Pennsylvania, Pigeon Creek is a dumping ground for tires. (We found 4 in our short 10-minute trip) The AMD site along rt 481 is in disrepair and needs rehabilitation but officials said money is available to restore the site and make it operational again if our community shows enough interest.
Hope you enjoy this short trip up Pigeon Creek. Special thanks to Captain Evan Clark and Allegheny Cleanways..