Kinzua Valley History

The Transition of the Kinzua Valley

After the manufacturing plants, timber mills, and railroads shut down, the Kinzua Valley went through a period of transition. The trees that had been clear-cut from the hillsides began to grow back, creating a beautiful woodland setting. The small towns along the railroads path that had been created by the economic activity either disappeared or began a gradual decline as people sought employment elsewhere. Trains no longer passed over the Kinzua Bridge; consequently, it was abandoned and nearly sold for scrap at one point. 

Government began to look at the environmental issues that society had relegated immaterial in days past and began to rectify some of that neglect. The Kinzua Creek, which had been polluted by much industrial waste and oil drilling, was gradually cleaned up. Deer, wild turkey, and other wildlife began to repopulate the lush surroundings - less the passenger pigeon, wolves and a few other species that didn't survive the region's early industrial period. Fishermen and hunters gravitated to the area to take in the natural setting and practice their skills.

In Westline, The Enis Hotel (later the Westline Inn) began operation to feed and house this influx of sportsmen and gained a fine reputation for its food and hospitality.

In the mid-1960's, a group of local area citizens formed the Kinzua Bridge Foundation and lobbied the Pennsylvania legislature to have the area surrounding the bridge designated as a state park, which it eventually was.

The Allegheny Reservoir was constructed to utilize the flow of the Allegheny River for electrical power. As it began to fill in 1959, it flooded part of the old Valley Railroad tracks at their western terminus in the town of Kinzua. The waters also swallowed up the village of Morrison until finding its high watermark in Red Bridge. Red Bridge, because of its location on the shores of the reservoir, became a campground administered by the Forest Service.

The Valley Railroad's railbed, now just a narrow clearing that cut though the forest, was gradually taken over by vegetation. The vestiges of the bridge foundations, railroad ties and some remnants of the settlements along its path poked through the foliage, but it was largely forgotten, a relic of history. This however, was about to change.

READ ON - The Redevelopment of the Kinzua Valley