Thompson Run - 1975 - 2017


Some 70 years ago, Thompson Run was a classic limestone trout stream. It began at Thompson Spring, located about 200 yards southwest of the Duck Pond.  From the spring, Thompson Run ran down a sluiceway located where the center line of Benner Pike is now. It then joined the present streambed, flowed behind what are now Clark Motor Company and Claster's (now YBC), and meandered through a meadow for a mile or so before its confluence with Slab Cabin Run, a short distance from Spring Creek. Throughout its course Thompson Run was and is the recipient of numerous limestone springs, Walnut and Bathgate Springs being the most prominent. The stream not only harbored excellent populations of brook and brown trout but provided a clean, cool flow of water for Spring Creek.

In the fifties, when Benner Pike was rebuilt, Thompson Run was diverted into the Duck Pond, which is used as a settling basin for State College's and the University's storm water. Thus the pure, cool spring water became intermixed with the warm stagnant pond water. The flow of Thompson Run became a hot, polluted stream instead of a cool, clean one. Also, both State College and Penn State dumped their sewage effluent, originating in the PSU Waste Water Sewage Treatment Plant, into the stream. The effluent carried high levels of phosphorus, chlorine and other polluting chemicals.

Joe Humphreys, who fished this stream as a boy, saw the potential of restoring Thompson Run to its former condition. He first discussed this project with the Chapter at the June 1975 meeting. The idea was batted around and became even more enticing when Penn State announced that it was going to initiate the Living Filter concept and would no longer pour its sewage effluent into Thompson Run; rather, it would pipe it several miles away and spray it on University property and State Game Lands 176. A plan was drawn up to construct a dike which would carry the Thompson Spring water directly to Thompson Run without going through the warm, stagnant water of the Duck Pond.

The estimated cost was $30,000, but there was only $120 in the Chapter treasury. The president of the Chapter met with representatives from State Council to enlist support and ask for funding. Neither support nor funds were forthcoming, so the Chapter went about seeking help from local sources.

With the necessary approval from the University and DER in hand, Joe Humphreys employed his charm and tenaciousness to convince the Glenn Hawbaker Construction Company to build the dike in conjunction with their dredging operation of the Duck Pond. Whitey Glenny, Hawbaker's foreman, gave tremendous support, and Hawbaker's donation of manpower, machinery and materials made the project possible. In addition, HR. Imbt donated the pipe for the cut through the breast of the dam, Centre Concrete and Sheesley Supply Co. gave concrete for the sluiceway, Claster's donated reinforcing wire and lumber, Neidigh's Quarry gave additional fill and the University donated a backhoe and an operator. John D. Miller (now retired) and Lloyd Niemann of the University's Physical Plant gave strong support to the operation. From the Chapter, Paul Blankenhorn, Todd Bowersox, Dave Coe, Will Hepfer, Dave Holmes, Merrill Katz, George Kelly, Vance McCullough, Ed Rakowski, Elton Tail and Regan Williams provided labor on a very short notice. With this type of support from industry, the University and Chapter members, it wasn't long before Thompson Run once again flowed in its own course and bypassed the Duck Pond. Thus in the fall of 1977, Spring Creek was again recharged with the cool clean spring water of Thompson, Walnut and Bathgate Springs.

But the dike, after its construction in 1977, was very narrow and not stabilized. Also, muskrats began working in the dike. Much repair work was required. The Chapter could not ask any more of Hawbaker and at this time funds in the Chapter treasury were not sufficient to finance more work. But more repair work was done in August of 1979, when eight tons of fill were used, and in succeeding years. Then in 1983 the Chapter received a matching grant of $1,400 from National TV's Living Brightwaters trust program. During several weekends in August a backhoe and enough fill were brought in to properly repair, raise and riprap the dike where needed. Seeding was also carried out at this time. The repair work was planned and organized by Dan Shields, then chairman of the stream improvement committee.

The Thompson Run project, conceived and directed by Joe Humphreys, is without a doubt the most important stream improvement project completed by the Chapter. Not only has the trout fishery of Thompson Run been restored but now upper Spring Creek is recharged with a constant supply of cool spring water. Thompson Spring itself discharges over 4000 gallons of water per minute. This restoration project improves all of Spring Creek downstream of Thompson Run. A report on the project appeared in the winter issue of Trout, the National TU magazine in 1982. 


Dedication of the Plaque at Thompson Run


Subsequently, Moyer Jewelers donated a bronze plaque in recognition of the completion of the project.  Unfortunately, the plaque was misplaced for more than a decade.  Through the efforts of Bob Donaldson, the plaque was found.  Then President Judi Sittler undertook the project to have the plaque mounted on a large rock by Phillip Wolfe.  In May of 2016, the Plaque and a tree was planted to commemorate the accomplishment in a ceremony (see here). 


Stewardship of Thompson Run


In early 2016, the Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited and the Penn State Office of Physical Plant began planning a restoration of the Thompson Run dike.  Over the years since 1976, the dike had been damaged by the planting of large trees that had large root balls and eventually were blown over during bad weather, damaging the dike.  By 2016, nearly half the flow was leaking into the “Duck Pond”.  After much planning, Penn State funded and provided support to repair the dike.  SCCTU provided volunteers to clean out the dike, to plant a buffer in some areas and begin to repair the dike.  Most of the work was competed in the fall of 2016, but work was stopped on October 1st to protect the fishery.  The final repair will be completed in the spring of 2017.

 Cleaning out the Dike

Pulling out one of the large trees along the Dike

Safety Briefing