Johnstown Flood National Memorial

733 Lake Road, South Fork, PA 15956

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A memorial site commemorating the Johnstown Flood of 1889

The National Parks Service is, without a doubt, one of our country’s most valuable assets. The network gives families the opportunity to enjoy and learn about our country’s natural and cultural treasures, mostly for free. The Johnstown Flood National Memorial is no exception.

This national park site memorializes the tragic flood that occurred in Johnstown in 1889. The catastrophic event practically washed away the bustling valley site of Johnstown, taking the lives of more than 2,000 people. The memorial strikes a wonderful balance between memorializing this terrible event and highlighting how people from all over the world came together to help Johnstown rebuild.

The Johnstown Memorial is comprised of a visitor center and another outdoor area that overlooks the remains of the failed dam that released around 20 million tons of water, which flowed through the valleys until it reached Johnstown, 14 miles away. The flood caused a wave of 35-40 feet high to hit the town at approximately 40 miles an hour.

While it seems as though this site would not be the most kid-friendly option in the area, we found that the availability of a Junior Ranger book made this a great opportunity for our kids, ages 6 and 8, to learn about this significant event in our nation’s history. The videos and exhibits available in the visitor’s center opened conversations about engineering, city planning, and the key role that charity and aid workers play in helping to rebuild after tragedy. Families with elementary-aged children and above will likely find that this is a valuable addition to their time in the area.

We recommend that families start at the visitor’s center and allow around 60 minutes to see the exhibits and complete the junior ranger book. After being “sworn in”, kids can wear their Junior Ranger badges as you drive to see the site of the failed dam.

You could call it a day after your visit to the national park, but we highly recommend extending your visit to the area with a trip to modern-day Johnstown. There, you can visit a children’s museum, visit the Johnstown Flood Museum, and ride the incline that was built in 1890 to prevent another tragedy like the one in 1889.

Johnstown may be an area overlooked by many of the visitors in this region, but it is certainly worth spending some time in.

Matthew Raspa
Baltimore, MD
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