Constructed in 1931, the Cascades was a manmade water feature using stratified rock quarried from the park itself. The brain child of Paul B. Riis, the Swiss-born landscape architect best known for his involvement in the development of Yellowstone National Park, the Cascades was carefully composed to evoke a network of waterfalls and pools.
The Cascades was one of a number of original features conceived for the park and quickly became one of the park’s not-to-miss features. It made for a summertime destination for families seeking to get away from the city. Years of neglect led to the Cascades being forgotten by time and quickly reclaimed by nature. Once the restoration is completed in 2021, the Cascades will provide the community with a historic, educational and fun escape.
Site work began on this restoration project in November 2020 and was promptly stalled when snow arrived in December. Most of the water supply, sanitary drain and electric line utility trench work was completed prior to the change in weather. An underground fiberglass water treatment vault has been installed. The vault will contain the pipes, valves and pump needed to supply, treat and re-circulate water through the Cascades.
Work is full speed ahead. The water recirculation system has been installed at the top of the site. Water will be treated and then flow into the upper pond through the two lower ponds and back up to the top.
The original stone walls installed by the first Allegheny County Parks Director Paul Riis, who was also a landscape architect, were still intact so they were not moved. The original concrete floor of the three ponds Paul Riis installed were also intact so these were also kept.
The re-design added a walkway at the top of the Cascades that was not in Riis’ original design. This walkway will move from the shelter, across the top of the upper pool to the other side of the pool.
Water movement has also been a primary concern. Sub-drains were installed throughout the site carrying spring water. A second spring was discovered that feeds the springhouse at the Oliver Miller Homestead, which improves the running water running through the Homestead.
Allegheny County, Allegheny County Parks, Allegheny County Parks Foundation, Allegheny Foundation, Friends of South Park, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, Pittsburgh Penguins Operation Restore, Richard King Mellon Foundation, Thirty/Three Foundation and Colcom Foundation.