Bartlett Carry Dam

Bartlett Carry Dam, Photo: © Guy Middleton

Description of Dam:

The Bartlett Carry Dam is owned and operated by the Upper Saranac  Foundation. The dam is classified as a Class “B”, Intermediate Hazard dam by the NYSDEC.

The Dam was reportedly constructed in the 1850s across the outlet of the Upper Saranac Lake as a means of controlling the level of the Lake for logging purposes. In the later 1800s, a saw mill was built on the site. It was extensively rebuilt in 1913/14 but had to be rebuilt again in 1920 due to poor construction. Upper Saranac Lake has a surface area of approximately 5,070 acres, and the drainage basin above the dam covers about 76-1/2 square miles. The dam was reconstructed to meet contemporary standards in 1994

The dam is approximately 335 feet long and consists of two spillways, a center (non-overflow) section, formerly the location of a generator, and two earthen embankments with cut-off walls on either end of each spillway. There are no gates or other flow control mechanisms in the dam. The two spillways are at different elevations. The lower spillway, known as the service (or primary) spillway, is at elevation 1571.42 and is 52 feet long.  It is located on the north side of the center (non-overflow) section. The southern spillway (at elevation 1571.75, or 4″ higher than the service spillway) is 122 feet long and contains a “fish passage slot” near its mid-point.

The average annual flow at the dam was estimated (by Christie Engineering, 1992) to be 140 cfs. The reconstruction of the Dam in 1994, in accordance with engineering plans, was designed for a flow of (150% of the 100 year flood), or 920 cfs, which is a water level of 1.7 feet above the lower spillway. In the spring of 2011 the water was flowing 1.4 feet (16.8 inches) over the lower spillway, or at approximately 80% of the designed flow.

There is a plan in place for implementing ongoing upkeep. This includes  obtaining an annual NYS DEC certification and developing and fulfilling an Inspection and Maintenance Protocol. The Foundation keeps detailed engineering records, maintenance accounts and inspection reports.

Multiple routine safety inspections are conducted annually by the Lake Manager and a licensed engineer. In addition, the Bartlett Carry Dam Emergency Action Plan is reviewed and is updated annually as well as routine maintenance including brushing, mowing, side cutting and removing encroaching trees from the access road and embankments.

As owners of the Bartlett Carry Dam, the Upper Saranac Foundation complies with NYSDEC Dam Safety standards and follows their required protocols. We understand the importance of maintaining the dam, assuring reliable water levels and providing safety to those downstream.


Reconstruction of the almost 100 year old Bartlett Carry Dam began in the fall of 1993 and completed in March of 1994. Work was preceded by several years of permitting and design that at times seemed unending.

Before construction could begin, permit approvals had to be obtained from the Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Town of Harrietstown and the Adirondack Park Agency. Once the necessary permits were obtained, access to the dam had to be created since the Foundation acquired only the actual footprint of the dam itself, with easements and right-of-ways.

Access to the southern side of the dam was improved by opening up an old logging road. Access to the north side of the dam was obtained by temporarily widening a path to the Bartlett Carry Club Beach.  Great care was taken to insure that the access areas could be restored as closely as possible to its pre-existing condition once construction was completed.

The dam was repaired in two stages. In late fall, a portable coffer dam was placed in front of the northern half of the dam, and the area was dewatered. Logs and debris were then removed from the upstream and downstream sides of the dam.  Upon inspection, interior damage to the dam was found to be more extensive than realized and would have caused a failure within three to five years.

In late November, concrete was pumped into forms built around the old dam. The project was officially completed in March of 1994. The portable coffer dam was removed, and water flowed over the new spillway on December 20, 1993.

The coffer dams were moved to the southern side, and the process repeated.

Carl Hathaway, local caretaker, guide and one of the founding members of the Upper Saranac Foundation, was the point man and day to day overseer of the project, without whose guidance, expertise and wisdom, the project could not have been completed so successfully.

Restored, the Bartlett Carry Dam stands as a powerful testament to what a community of people, both committed and generous, can achieve. Completion ensures that Upper Saranac Lake remains accessible and navigable for the foreseeable future. No less important, the dam maintains a natural water level, which protects lakeside wetlands and other natural habitats for fish and wildlife.

For information on current dam maintenance:
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