Saw Mill Run Creek

Saw Mill Run originates in Bethel Park
and flows north to the Ohio River. Here,
the Creek flows along Rt. 51 near Brookline.
Saw Mill Run Creek flows towards the intersection of Route 51 and Whited Street near Brookline.

Saw Mill Run Creek originates in Bethel Park and flows north for nearly ten miles before entering the Ohio River less than a mile south of the Point in downtown Pittsburgh. The main stream travels along Route 88 to Route 51 in Overbrook, where it meets with Weyman Run Creek, which flows along Clairton Boulevard from Brentwood, with a subsidiary branch running along Provost Road from Baldwin.

Saw Mill Run flows along Route 88 towards
Route 51 and the junction with Weyman Run Creek.    The junction of Saw Mill Run and Weyman Run Creeks
under the bridgework at the Rt 51/Rt 88 interchange.
Left - Saw Mill Run Creek flows along Library Road (Rt 88) towards Saw Mill Run Boulevard (Rt 51);
Right - Saw Mill Run and Weyman Run Creeks meet under the bridgework at the Route 51/Route 88 intersection.

The enlarged Saw Mill Run then continues northward along Route 51 to the West End. Many other tributaries feed into Saw Mill Run, including Little Saw Mill Run, which runs through the Banksville Road corridor until it intersects the main stream near the Fort Pitt Tunnels.

Little Saw Mill Run flows along the
Banksville Corridor, shown here in 1908.    Junction Little Saw Mill Run and Saw Mill Run Creeks
at the Banksville Circle, today the Ft Pitt Tunnels.
Left - Little Saw Mill Run flows along the Banksville Corridor, shown here in 1908; Right - The junction of
Little Saw Mill Run and Saw Mill Run at the Banksville Circle, now the location of the Fort Pitt Tunnels.

Like many secondary waterways and tributaries bisecting the growing city of Pittsburgh, Saw Mill Run Creek became polluted with sewer runoff, a problem that grew with the population and was not properly addressed until the 1980s. Water samples taken from the stream in 2000 determined that high concentrations of fecal coliform were still present, a water pollution problem that continues to plague many streams in the Pittsburgh area.

For years, sewage drained directly into the Creek.
Modern efforts have helped alleviate the problem, but pollution
levels in 2000 showed that more work needs to be done.
This photo was taken in 1950.
Sewage runoff has been a problem for years along Saw Mill Run Creek. Efforts have been made to alleviate the problem.

Seasonal flooding is another problem associated with Saw Mill Run Creek. Many homes and businesses located along the low-lying areas near the waterway were the victim of frequent flooding. In the late 1990s many structures along the flood plain were demolished. Dredging and flood control measures by the Army Corps of Engineers have further eased the problem. However, the prospect of flooding will always exist and a strong rainstorm can still bring the water to dangerous levels, often overflowing onto portions of Route 51 between Overbrook and the West End.

Saw Mill Run Creek near the West End in 1937.
This area was known as the West End Flood District.    Saw Mill Run Creek near the West End in 1937.
This area was known as the West End Flood District.
Saw Mill Run Creek runs through the West End Flood District towards it's intersection with the Ohio River.

In the 1700s and 1800s, the production of salt was big business, and some Salt Mills could produce up to fifteen barrels a day. Below is a painting of the old Pittsburgh Salt Works at the mouth of Saw Mill Run Creek, where it exits into the Ohio River, near what is today the West End Interchange. The scene was painted by Russell Smith in 1832. Another photo shows the creek at West Carson Street in 1919.

Saw Mill Run Creek near the Salt Works in 1832.    Saw Mill Run Creek near at the West End in 1919.
This area was known as the West End Flood District.
Left - Saw Mill Run Creek flows past the old Pittsburgh Salt Works in this painting from 1832. Right - Along West Carson Street at the West End Circle, a temporary bridge spans Saw Mill Run Creek in 1919.

Saw Mill Run has also become synonymous with the roadway called Saw Mill Run Boulevard, also known as Route 51 or Clairton Boulevard. The photo below shows the West End Interchange, the busy intersection of Route 51, Carson Street, the Steubenville Pike and the West End Bridge, where the old salt works pictured above once stood.

The new West End Circle traffic design where
Saw Mill Run Creek enters the Ohio River.
The West End Interchange, where the Salt Works once stood and Saw Mill Run Creek enters the Ohio River.

The Seldom Seen Arch

Despite the problems with pollution and flooding, and the development along the course of Saw Mill Run, the creek's landscape also contains some wonderful scenic architecture. The Seldom Seen Arch, a stone arch bridge along Saw Mill Run Boulevard near Woodruff Street, is one of these locations.

The Seldom Seen Arch, near Woodruff
Street, is a Pittsburgh Historic Landmark.    The Seldom Seen Arch, near Woodruff
Street, is a Pittsburgh Historic Landmark.
Looking through the Seldom Seen Arch from both sides of the tunnel.

Built in 1903 as part of the Wabash Pittsburgh Terminal Railway, the Seldom Seen Arch is on the List of Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation Historic Landmarks.

The Seldom Seen Arch, near Woodruff
Street, is a Pittsburgh Historic Landmark.

A sign near the arch reads: "Beechview-Seldom Seen Greenway - Est. by the City of Pittsburgh July 15, 1985 - Dedicated to the memory of Edward E. Smuts, whose vision and enthusiasm inspired the Greenway Program to preserve Pittsburgh's wooded hillsides. Twenty-two acres of this greenway given as a living memorial by the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy in tribute to Mr. Smuts."

Saw Mill Run Creek flows through
the Seldom Seen Arch.

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