The Bayless Paper Mill Ruins Trail at the Austin Dam Memorial Park in Austin, Pennsylvania is an easy 3-mile out-and-back trail that leads out to the remaining ruins and structures left behind of the Bayless Pulp & Paper Company. This hike is a great walk for those interested in exploring abandoned buildings; however, hike and explore at your own risk.
Hikers will find no trailhead or trail sign (as of Oct 10, 2020) for this hike; however, the trail pretty easy to follow. Hikers will begin at the main parking are for the Austin Dam - right by the main park entrance. Instead of hiking toward the dam, hikers will head in the opposite direction - hiking through a black metal gate that passes several pay-to-camp campsites.
At the end of this dirt road, after the last numbered campsite, the trail continues through the woods as it meanders its way along a creek. Eventually, hikers will reach a creek crossing - here, you technically have two choices - hikers can cross the creek by slowly walking along rocks that were placed to help hikers, or you can skirt off-trail and cross two smaller creeks to reach the other side. Either way, hikers will need to cross some water in order to hike the entire trail.
After the creek crossing, the trail runs along the base of a hillside and the creek - giving hikers a nice view of the surrounding hills. Along this section of trail is, what looks like an old drainage culvert that sits along the trail. This culvert-like object is actually the remains of an old water system that used to pipe water from Freeman Run upstream to the paper mill downstream. This section of the trail technically follows along the abandon water piping from the Bayless Concrete Dam Ruins to the Bayless Papermill ruins. These old pipes used to be made of wood with cast iron hold bands. Hikers should be aware of one large hole in the ground (approx. 1-foot wide) and a set of cast iron hold bands, that looks like a circular rip cage, lying in the ground.
Not long after hiking along the section of trail that runs between the base of the hill and the creek, hikers will reach a fork in the trail. At the fork, hikers want to head uphill (right-hand turn) to head toward a dirt road.
Once at the dirt road, take a left-hand turn to continue hiking toward the Bayless Paper Company ruins.
Reaching the Ruins
Around mile 1, hikers will reach an old concrete structure that stands about 100-feet tall. This old structure appears to be some sort of old observation tower. The legs of the tower are hollow concrete silos partially filled with limestone, so it's possible this tower was used to pH water for the paper-making process. Next to the old tower is a concrete building with two small windows near the top. Hikers can poke around this area for a bit; however, we stayed on the trail here. After checking out these two neat abandoned buildings, hikers will want to head back down the dirt road, but look for a small trail that leads downhill toward the main ruins seen from PA Route 872. This short trail cuts through the tall grass and leads out to the large abandoned building located along PA Route 872 which most folks are familiar with. Here, hikers will note a few things: the roof is collapsing on the 2nd floor, trees are growing on several levels of the building, and the main floor has several circular holes that lead into a basement (of unknown depth) below. Hikers should likely stay out of this building to keep from getting hurt, but hike and explore at your own risk.
The hike back to parking is identical to the hike in. At the creek crossing, hikers will have a choice whether to ford the large creek or try the smaller creek-hops by going around to the side of the main creek crossing.
This trail follows white blazes.
On September 30th, 1911 the Bayless Pulp & Paper Company concrete dam gave way under tons of pressure from the water in the reservoir which had been built to help fuel the paper mill just south of the reservoir. The dam breakage sent water rushing down the valley, destroying everything in its path - including much of the paper mill. The water rushed right through the town of Austin as well. In its wake, it killed 78 people in total. Bayless Pulp & Paper Company survived the breaking of the Austin Dam in 1911 as well as the smaller earthen dam break in the flood of 1942. However, a major fire in 1944 caused the Austin paper mill to close forever.
The exact purpose of the abandoned tower a bit of a mystery. The three legs are actually hollow concrete silos and are partly filled with limestone rocks. So, it may have been used for water conditioning to change the PH of water for use in the paper-making process. The very top part was probably an observation room.
The Bayless papermill produced more than 50 tons of paper per day, and needed 4 million gallons of water to operation. Freeman Run is a headwater stream in the Chesapeake bay water shed and was often not able to supply enough water flow for the paper-making operation. So, a series of dams were built by the Bayless Pulp and Paper Company to hold water. The largest being the Bayless Concrete dam built in 1909 to hold over 250 million gallon of water in the upstream reservoir. A 20 inch diameter underground pipe supplied the papermill with the needed water.
Dogs are allowed if leashed and their waste must be carried out by the hiker.
Visitors will find pay-to-camp campsites along this trail. Backpacking and dispersed camping is not allowed.
While there are no designated overlooks or lookouts along this trail, hikers will get some views of the surrounding mountains, neighboring creek, and views of the abandoned buildings from several vantage points along the road.
Hikers can find parking at the main lot for Austin Dam. The entrance sign, located on PA Route-872, has two roads that lead out from it. Follow the road that immediately crosses a small bridge - do not drive down the hill to the camping area since the Austin Dam is about 1-mile away from this spot. Following the road that crosses the bridge will bring you down to the concrete dam.
Last, this short section is dedicated to Alvie, Brad, and the other volunteers at the Austin Dam Memorial Park for creating this trail and making this section of the park open to the public to explore, as this trail was built shortly after I (Admin) had inquired about when or if there would be a path available to reach these ruins.