Reduce, Reuse, RecycleIt Even Applies to Dams!


dam millstone

Millstone from dam | Credit: Spamily

We talk a lot about removing dams on here, and it got us thinking. Do you ever wonder what happens to the actual material from the dam once it’s removed from a river? While the answer to this question depends largely on what type of material (concrete, earth, timber, rock) the dam was built with, we thought it would be fun to share some of the more creative ways old pieces of dams can be put to use.

oyster reef restoration

Oyster reef restoration in Mobile Alabama, Dog river mouth. | Credit: Cesar Harada

Some pieces of dams find their way into local museums. This is not limited to actual pieces of the dam but can include artifacts discovered at the site or parts associated with a mill structure. This becomes a good way to document the history of the site and allows for an even broader audience to learn about the area’s history.

In certain cases, concrete from the dam can actually be used to create habitat for other species. In the case of the Simkins Dam on the Patapsco River, the concrete from the demolished dam is being processed for reuse by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation as oyster habitat in the Chesapeake Bay. )

dam millstone

Timber from Embrey Dam | Credit: American Rivers

Salvaged timber from an old dam on the Rappahannock River was sold to a woodworker who has refashioned the timber into a number of different items, including a Bible box for Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Timber from wooden dams like the one on the Rappahannock has been used to make pens, tabletops, flooring, paperweights and even wine bottle stoppers. In an interesting turn of events, the old timber from the Rappahannock dam is now being studied by researchers for clues to the area’s pre-colonial climate.

Can you think of other uses for old dam materials?