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A note about water being turned on at Wah-Tut-Ca from Mr. Lobao

note that the Mr. Arena mentioned near the end of this used to be a scout master with Troop 30 and recently died, any scouts that have been out on the lake should recognize the building in the picture which was the original Wah-Tut-Ca pump house, when former scout, Scott Rogers, was the shooting sports director there for a couple of years, that was his summer residence, the building is down the hill behind the dining hall, a steep hill to walk up too.

Daily News From Oh Well….
The Wah-Tut-Ca Waterworks.

Today on the reservation the drinking water was turned on. It is an annual ritual that has been performed for decades by often dedicated yet often unseen teams of people from the Wah-Tut-Ca Community. Later in the day we removed a hazard to navigation on Northwood Lake, but that is a completely different story.

I’ve often said that WTCSR is a wet place. However, water that you can drink has been a little more of a challenge to come by. The first well of WTCSR was drilled in 1936 close to the Basin of Northbrook and Kemobrook. You can still find it and the holding tanks. There used to be a sign near the water spigot that said, “Drink You Fill but Spit Out Your Last Swallow.” This suggestion was made to lessen the effect of water that wasn’t very tasteful.

The Swains had a number of 18th and 19th century “dug wells” many you can find. The most noticeable is the one that is near the camp gate. When I was a boy that’s where you went to get water in the off-season. It was there that I learned the “bucket down the well pitch”. You needed to send the bucket and rope down at an angle to maximize the amount of water you can catch.

In the early 1950s a new approach was established to provide water. The new source was Northwood Lake and the pump house was built to bring water from the lake and into the dining hall. The pump house, pictured here, was built by brothers Alexander & John Vervaert. Today the metal cable that was used to convey cement is still there. Alex told me that he left it because, “it made a practical handrail.”

The pump house was only used for a few years. The next well drilled was one near the dining hall which is still in service today. In the 1990s the dining hall well would often run dry in hot summer droughts. I remember Camp Director Craig Ryder looking at the dry well with tremendous anxiety and expressing colorful language.

In the 1990s the main well was drilled near what is now Camp Shanawanda. This well taps directly into an aquifer 300 feet below the surface. It provides the majority of the water in the summer season. In the fall it is disabled as most of the piping runs along the surface.

Over the decades there are many heroes of The Wah-Tut-Ca Waterworks Committee. For nearly 25 years Bob Arena and John Farley would make their spring journey to WTCSR to get the water turned on. They would return in the fall to turn it off. Others, just as dedicated carry that tradition on- indeed to this very day. It’s truly a Wah-Tut-Ca thing.
Wah Tut Ca Pump House

Original email April 26, 2020
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