Dam Removals:

Woodlands Lake Dam, Ardsley NY



Across the country, dam removal projects are leading the way in river restoration. In Irvington, New York, removal of the Woodlands Lake Dam is freeing a section of the Saw Mill River.

In my home county of Westchester, New York, the biggest dam removal project is happening in Ardley, where the Woodlands Lake dam is being demolished in V. E. Macy Park.

In New York, rivers and streams are plugged with thousands of impoundments, big and small. There are more than 7000 dams, and probably many more that haven’t crossed regulators’ radar.

The Woodlands Lake Dam has (or, should I say, had) this in common with so many legacy dams: it articicailly warmed the water that backs up in the impoundment, baking in the summer sun.

A silty, muddy lakebed in summer, where the sediment has been deposited in front of the dam. Westchester County, Woodlands Lake Dam

Woodlands Lake, before dam removal: a silty, muddy, dry and dewatered lakebed in summer. Dams artificially warm the water they impound, leading to the loss of biodiversity up and down the stream.


The stone masonry and concrete dam was built in 1840, and the resulting impoundment has served the county variously as a park, swimming pool, circus location and scenic backdrop for a restaurant (as well as a cameo in the Netflix film, The Irishman).

Scene near the Woodlands Lake Dam, from The Irishman

All fancied up for Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro in the Martin Scorsese’s 2019 film, The Irishman: The buildings at the shore of Woodlands Lake.

But the lake created by the dam was only six feet deep at its deepest, and as temperatures in Westchester rise with climate change, the amount of water evaporating off its surface also increased. Removing the dam and storing water in underground aquifers makes water supplies more resilient in an increasingly warmer world.

As a practical matter, the dam was deemed old, obsolete and expensive to maintain.

Once the dam removal process is complete, a pre-engineered bridge will be placed over the river. Pedestrians and cyclists on the Empire State Trail will then have access to V.E. Macy park.

These photos were taken after two days of rain pounded the area, but you can see the  Saw Mill River channel taking shape in the former lake bed.

Aerial view of the demolition site of a dam on the Saw Mill River in Westchester County, NY

Aerial view of the demolition site of a dam on the Saw Mill River in Westchester County, NY


Below, you can see where riffle structures have been built to slow down the rush of water and reduce erosion, all while providing hiding and nesting places for aquatic animals — a far cry from the sluggish, sediment-laden pond of the past.


Riffle control structures in stone installed in the Saw Mill River at the former Woodlands Lake site in Ardsley, New York.

Riffle control structures installed in the Saw Mill River stream channel, where Woodlands Lake once lay. The dam removal project will result in a liveable environment for aquatic animals and flora, and a naturally cooler one.


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Dam removal projects are a favorite, and a specialty. We offer the quickest turnaround on photo and video submissions, contract paperwork and insurance documents. We’d love to work on your next dam removal contract.  -Suzanne


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