Exelon Generation hosts Conowingo Dam tours
Documentary sparks new interest in dam
— A recent documentary has led to a surge of interest in the Conowingo Dam with more than 1,000 people turning out to Exelon Generation’s annual tours of the facility this weekend.
The hydroelectric facility, which carries U.S. Route 1 over the Susquehanna River
between Conowingo and Darlington, as well as its catwalk, a popular fishing spot, have been closed to the public since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But three years ago, Exelon began hosting free open house tours, which include a roughly hour-long tour of the inner workings of the 90-year-old power plant.
This year’s turnout was higher than the 700 people who attended the event in 2015 and 2014 and the 900 people who attended in 2013, the first year of the tours, said Deena O’Brien, regional communications manager for Exelon Generation.
The increase in visitors this year is in part attributed to “Conowingo Dam: Power On the Susquehanna,” a Maryland Public Television movie about the dam’s history, O’Brien said, with many people inquiring about the tour after the documentary aired in April.
Perryville resident Louise Zadorozny and her son Jim, from Athens, Ga., both enjoyed the tour.
“This is my second tour here and you always learn something new,” Louise said.
Louise said her first tour was about three years ago and she was impressed both times. It was much quieter this time around though, she said, because there were not as many gates open as the first time she came to visit.
“I think it’s excellent,” Jim said of his first tour. “Very informative and from something that I’ve driven over a couple of times, it’s interesting to see how the dam and structure work.”
Chesapeake City resident Mark Lobach and his wife came to the open house to see the inside of the dam. Lobach said the first time he came for the open house was in the 1950s when he was in fifth grade. He said he only remembers all of the water during his first tour.
Lobach most enjoyed seeing the equipment and generators in the Turbine Hall and also liked learning about the dam’s wet fish lift, where the fish are scooped up and put on the other side of the dam to travel to their spawning areas.
“I didn’t know they did that,” he said.
People also traveled from out of state to experience the dam’s open house.
Kathy Dumas, her brother Steven Snyder and their mother Christine Snyder traveled from Lancaster, Pa. to see the inner workings of the dam.
“We like nature and history, so it was a chance to see a side of it (the dam), you don’t normally get to see,” Dumas said.
She said she focused most on the architecture of the building.
“It’s kind of interesting to see the way it is, the way it’s still preserved,” Dumas said. “It’s like taking a step into the past. It’s a part of the past that it still vital for our future.”
Steven Snyer said he and his family would go to the dam as children and walk along the fishing pier but it was nice to see the inside of the building. He said he enjoyed seeing the machinery in the building, while Christine Snyer said she enjoyed seeing the wet fish lift and learning that the fish are scooped up and brought to the other side.
As long as there is a demand to see the inside of the plant, open houses will continue to occur every year, O’Brien said..
“We have every intent of keeping the open house open as long as there is demand for it,” she said. “Our intent is to keep it as long as the demand is there.”
A tour group is led through the Conowingo Dam’s Turbine Hall, which houses several generators.
Perryville resident Louise Zadorozny and her son, Jim, who is visiting from Athens, Ga., enjoy the Conowingo Dam tour.