Dozens of ancient eel weirs uncovered in Susquehanna

By Ad Crable, Bay Journal

As a kid growing up on Bald Top Mountain above the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, Van Wagner would look down during times of low water to see a mysterious “V” rising from the bottom, pointing downstream.

Later, he learned it was an old eel weir built from stacked river rocks, a simple but effective way to funnel and catch migrating American eels. As the eels swam downstream, the walls of the weir funneled them to a narrow point where they could be captured in traps or speared more easily.

As Wagner shows in a recent drone video, the two walls of the weir rise about 3–5 feet from the river bottom. The weir is about one-eighth of a mile wide at the top of the V.

Wagner, a high school environmental science teacher from Danville, PA, was told a story that has been handed down by generations of local residents: The weir had been built by Native Americans. Indeed, the weir is located at the mouth of Mahoning Creek, where a community of Native Americans once lived.

Wagner’s own research led him to the startling theory that not only was the weir erected by Native Americans, but that it was perhaps built well before the great pyramids of Egypt. He asserts this possibility because wood recovered from an old capture basket at the end of an eel weir in Maine was carbon-dated to an origin of approximately 6,000 years ago.

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