6/21/2009 12:10:00 PM Guest column: Get out there - Santa Fe Dam
Andrea Dunn Williams' Outdoor Enthusiast
We live by, drive by and walk up to Santa Fe Dam all the time without knowing any of its most interesting history.
Santa Fe Dam was constructed between 1892 and 1895 with stone quarried in Holbrook and brought to Williams by Railroad. The dam was called "Santa Fe" because the Santa Fe Railroad needed the water for its steam engines. But the dam was also an important water resource for the town. In 1942 the dam was raised three feet, bringing the total capacity of the dam to 70 million gallons.
Another interesting thing that was going on around this same time period was that the lumber mills in the Williams area had increased their manufacturing capability and were finding it difficult to meet their orders for lumber products because they didn't have the necessary trees. In 1899 the Saginaw Lumber Company merged with the Manistee Lumber Company. With the combined timber rights it became financially feasible to remodel the mill and build new railroad spurs into the forest. These railroad spur lines enabled the Williams mill to operate once again at full capacity. One of these spur lines still exists on the backside of Santa Fe Dam.
One afternoon after school, Gauge and I had a little time to explore, so off to the dam we went. Auntie Am and her boyfriend Blu went with us. The dam was full, water seeping over the spillway. We walked across the spillway and onto the dam. The surface of the dam is a mute testimony to hundreds of people - citizens, fishermen and lovers who, over the years, inscribed names and dates in its soft rock face.
Once across the dam we turned left and continued walking along the dirt road that skirts the edge of the lake. Several ducks swam idly nearby, and a great blue heron flew across the lake, startled by our arrival. Before long our little dirt road turned away, but we kept going along the lake. It was soon easy to feel the fact that this used to be a narrow gauge railroad. The trail surface is a raised, solid bed, continuing a fairly straight line. The trees become dense, and it's often necessary to climb over or under fallen trees. The trail has the feeling of isolation. It's hard to believe that a paved, main artery is just across the wash.
(Editor's note: Andrea Dunn is a longtime Williams resident who enjoys hiking and the great outdoors. She continues to share her outdoor adventures and places to hike with us through this column.)