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Raystown Lake’s 50th Anniversary features tours, time capsules and history talks

  • Sydney Roach/WPSU
Jude Harrington, the Raystown Operations Manager (left), gives a tour of Raystown Lake, starting at the Pagoda Shelter Overlook. June 6, 2024 marks 50 years since Vice President Gerald Ford dedicated the dam at Raystown Lake.

 Sydney Roach / WPSU

Jude Harrington, the Raystown Operations Manager (left), gives a tour of Raystown Lake, starting at the Pagoda Shelter Overlook. June 6, 2024 marks 50 years since Vice President Gerald Ford dedicated the dam at Raystown Lake.

Thursday marks 50 years since Vice President Gerald Ford dedicated the Raystown Dam in Huntingdon County. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Friends of Raystown Lake, and Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau are offering guided tours and events to celebrate.

Jude Harrington, the Raystown Operations Manager, led a tour of the dam, starting at the Pagoda Shelter Overlook.

“Okay, so the first thing I want to say is… nothing. Look at this. This is awesome,” Harrington said.

Harrington pointed to the vast lake, which is almost 28 miles long. It’s the largest lake within Pennsylvania’s borders. He said the lake provides recreation, flood control, and hydro-electric power to Huntingdon County.

There will be a special commemoration ceremony on Thursday near the Pagoda Shelter Overlook, where Harrington said they’ll place a time capsule.

“We have some dignitaries coming up. We’re going to put [in] memories of this year and what would be interesting to people 50 years from now,” Harrington said.

Some of those items will include a copy of the day’s local newspaper, a Raystown Lake project brochure, and a ceremonial U.S. Army coin.

“The industry of recreation and tourism became a big piece of Huntington County’s economy because of Raystown Lake. Right now it’s probably, after agriculture, the second largest industry in the county,” said Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau Executive Director Matt Price.

Nearly 1,800 property owners had to sell their land under eminent domain in order to build the lake and dam, which have prevented flood damage, and brought hydro-electric power and recreation to the region.

“Yes, we are celebrating, but we’re also commemorating and memorializing the sacrifices that people made to bring this project to fruition,” Price said.

The Huntingdon County Historical Society held a panel discussion on Sunday. One of the panelists was Clair Grove, who grew up on a farm in what is now Raystown Lake. That farm is now partly underwater.

Most of the 50th Anniversary events are happening now through June 9, but there will be other events throughout the summer honoring the lake’s history.

You can find a full list of events for the Raystown Lake 50th Anniversary online.

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