00 - Alerts Chester County Downingtown Drawdown HDR Lakes Marsh Creek State Park Nature Photo Essay Photo Journal Photography Tone Mapping Water

Missing some water – Drawdown

Earlier in the week, I had seen a posting on Facebook that mentioned the Chester County Water Resources Authority, and how they were going to be lowering the water level of Marsh Creek Lake by 8 feet, so I was more than a little interested in seeing what the effects would be, especially having seen the heavy water flow after hurricane Sandy just two weeks before.

Why is Marsh Creek Lake so low?
Why is Marsh Creek Lake so low?

My niece, Katelyn, had spent the night on a sleep-over, and wanted to joined us on our family walk, especially since she had never been to the dam before.

We parked at the maintenance entrance along Dorlan Mill road, and walked down the long hill, and then onto the trails on the right, heading toward the main emergency spillway to the north.

It was fun watching the kids as they galloped along the trail, and it was easy to see that both Logan and Madison had been down this trail before, while Katelyn was being a little bit more cautious as we moved along the trails.

At the top of the clearing, near the concrete barrier, we got our first glimpses of the drawdown looking into the once marshy area.

Spillway gate and Safety sign
Spillway gate and Safety sign

The full impact of the water loss did not hit us until we were walking across the maintenance road on top of the dam, looking down at 20-40+ feet of a new ‘shoreline’.

We walked down the bank alone side the spillway gate, and at the water’s edge, were very amused to see the safety signs above our heads.

As we walked along the western shoreline, the kids delighted in throwing rocks, and launching weather worn planks into the lake, only to have them come back ashore further down our walk.

During our walk, I ran into a gentlemen and his son, and as we talked, he mentioned that he had heard that at lake had covered up a whole township. I was very surprised to hear this, and having never heard this before, I knew I needed to look this up later.

I caught up with my kids again, and as we walking along the ‘beach’, we saw old worn wood docks and cinder blocks thrown all around.

The new shoreline of Marsh Creek Lake
The new shoreline of Marsh Creek Lake

With a careful eye, I also spotted fishing lures, old bottles, cans, hats, while the ‘rock-hound’ in me, also spotted many beautiful examples of layered sedimentary rocks, along with many of examples of quartz with a deep dull blue color.

The kids being kids, wanted to bring everything home, but we had to limit it to what you could carry home on your own…

I was very surprised, but we now have several new door stoppers in two homes!

[Update – History]

Question – Was there a township covered by Marsh Creek Lake?


There are records dating back to the 1880s of a community known as Millford Mills, a farming village in the Marsh Creek Valley, which provided food, paper and other products to the Chester County area.

During the mid-1950s, the Chester County commissioners commissioned a survey on the Marsh Creek Valley and devised a plan to create a new reservoir to benefit the Uwchlan and surrounding area townships.

Between 1964-1978, the State of Pennsylvania acquired the land and relocated the residents of those remaining in Milford Mills.

Construction began in 1970, with the clearing of structures, trees and other obstacles.

By 1973, the Dam was completed, and then took another three years for the lake to fill.

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Chester County Creeks Downingtown Hurricanes Marsh Creek State Park Nature Photo Essay Photography Streams Water

Sick of Politics and went for a walk

After spending my Sunday morning, reading all the various headlines, weeding through the rhetoric and engaging in several spirited conversations, it was time to get out of the house.

Especially with the kids!

We backed up, and headed to the Marsh Creek Dam trailhead, and started our Sunday Family nature walk.

The three of us were eager to see what the water level was, since hurricane Sandy had passed over our area earlier in the week.

As we headed down the hill, in the distance, one could see the rapid flow of water as it traveled down the spillway, and by the time we reached the USGS station, it was easy to hear the water thundering over the dam.

From the observation area, we were amazed at the power in front of us.

We walked along the trail, enjoying the first cold weather of the season as we headed for the metal bridge.

After some time, we headed back to the car, as I commented about my adventures to this area back in September.

At dinner, all the kids could talk about was the flooding and the smell!
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Chester County Creeks Downingtown Events Nature Photo Journal Rivers Water Weather

pre Hurricane Sandy

After spending much of the day, waiting for Hurricane Sandy, I finally got so stir-crazy, that I grabbed my camera and headed put for a quick drive around the neighborhood to see what ‘life’ looked like, and here is what I saw…

You might also be interested in taking a look at last years Hurricane Irene photos.

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Chester County Covered Bridges Filters HDR Long Exposure Nature Photo Journal Photography Rivers Streams Water

Looking for water

It has been very dry in Chester County for a while now, and when it did rain last night, I had thoughts of where to find some water to finally take pictures of in the area.

Early in the morning, I put my photography gear in the car, along with drinks and snacks and I was off.

By the time I finished my quick errands around town, it was overcast, 85°F+ with slightly high humidity, and I knew I really wanted to play with my new 10-stop neutral density filter, and I knew my first stop.

Downingtown Dam

The Downingtown Dam, which is just west of the center of town, along Rt. 282/Creek Road was my first stop.

I parked in the little spot near the road, packed up my vest, grabbed my tripod, and was off along the little path through the woods.

120727 Downingtown Damn HDR 06
120727 Downingtown Damn HDR 06

Tech Note – The Downingtown Dam image is a HDR collection of (3) three images taken at 180 sec, 120 sec and 60 sec (f22 ISO100), combined in Photoshop, with Tone Mapping done with Nik Software HDR Efex 2.

I had been there a day or two earlier with my kids, when we took advantage of the swimming area just above the damn, and I also knew I could get a good measurement of what to expect further up-stream for possible later shoots.

The water level was definitely higher, my guest 2-3 inches, and most of the concrete on the damn was cover, with places blocked by small branches.

On the downside of the damn, it was still easy to cross the river with all the bare rocks still visible, and I quickly situated myself on the one large concrete slab near the middle.

As I setup, and looked around, I knew I was not going to get much, but I pushed on with the session.

During my time, I did finally get an exposure into the 4 minute range with the sun nearly right over head, but still not slow enough for somethings I want to do.

After about 45 minutes of shooting, I headed back to the car, and headed further upstream.

I stopped at several more places along Creek Road, checking the water levels. On several occasions, I had to deliberate, if it was worth the walk through thick poison ivy and oak, for a mediocre shoot.

When I reached the west side of Glenmoore, I turned around, and headed back on a GPS drive to my next adventure.

Sheeder-Hall Covered Bridge

I first photographed the Sheeder-Hall Covered Bridge back in 2010, and lately, I have been reviewing my images, with a desire to try again.

In Chester County, there are many wonderful, scenic roads, and Pughtown Road, off of Rt 100 (Pottstown Pike) is one of them, and along the way, one will find Hollow Road, on which Sheeder-Hall Covered Bridge can be found. The best place to park, in the little area on French Creek Road.

Sheeder-Hall (1850) - Looking Downstream
Sheeder-Hall (1850) – Looking Downstream

Tech Note – A series of (5) shots ranging from 1/15th to 1 second (f25 ISO100), combined in Photoshop, with Tone Mapping done with Nik Software HDR Efex 2.

Once again, I got my vest and tripod out, and headed down one of the little paths that lead to the downstream side of the bridge.

I waded into the water, and took some more documentary style images, looking upstream, and then headed back to capture some more interior shoots.

Eventually, I crossed the bridge, took some more shoots and headed back, and as I did, I turned, and saw this view. The traffic was lite, so doing the required multiple exposures for HDR work was easy, and then I was done for this session.

Rapps Dam Covered Bridge

Rapps Dam Covered Bridge in Phoenixville was another bridge that I photographed back in 2010, and since that time, Rapps has been restored, and I finally got a chance to visit to see the new construction!

120727 Rapps Covered Bridge hdr 12 - Under the Bridge
Rapps Covered Bridge hdr 12 – Under the Bridge

Tech Note – The Underneath shoot was another series of (7) HDR shoots, taken between 1 second and 60 seconds at f22 ISO100. Combined in Photoshop and tweaked with Nik Software HDR Efex 2.

When one is walking near the bridge, you can still smell the fresh new wood, combined with a pitch smell as you walk underneath.

120727 Rapps Covered Bridge hdr 18
Rapps Dam Covered Bridge hdr 18 – Looking Upstream

Tech Note – The Underneath shoot was another series of (6) HDR shoots, taken between 8 seconds and 180 seconds at f22 ISO100. Combined in Photoshop and tweaked with Nik Software HDR Efex 2.

It is very easy to see that the renovations that started on January 17 2011, were a success when the bridge reopened on Monday, November 21, 2011.

PennDOT took 10 months to replace the 4 steel support beams, remove and replace the cedar roof and redwood timber and siding, along the 106-foot span. The project cost $1,527,257, which was paid for by state funds, and was managed by Bi-State Construction of Easton, PA. The last time the bridge was reconstructed was in 1978.

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2014 April 29

Apparently, an 18-wheeler decided to take on Rapps Dam… Guess who won…

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