Saw Mill Run Creek
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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."
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