The Friends of the Black Fork is a non profit 501(c)(3) organization that is dedicated to the preservation of the Black Fork river and the Shelby, Ohio downtown area. All contributions are tax deductible.
The FOTBF was formed in 2008 by a group of downtown business people and concerned citizens after the 2007 flood. After discussing the divergent problems with the downtown area (empty store fronts, neglected buildings, weeds, littered sidewalks, etc.) we settled on the simple mantra of “Let’s put some lipstick on this pig.” Our first project was “Clean Sweep”. We set a date and advertised for any volunteers to help clean, paint, weed, pressure wash, and restore the downtown on a Saturday. The community response was tremendous. (Clean Sweep). All types of Shelbyians showed up; retirees, doctors, private citizens, teachers, boy scouts, you name it. We ran out of refreshments donated by local businesses and then jobs that were shovel ready to keep everyone busy.
A member of FOTBF donated a web camera that was installed on the Black Fork River monitoring the water level at the Main St. Bridge. (River Cam)
The FOTBF then purchased, installed and continue to maintain 40 flower boxes on Main St. to brighten up the downtown. (see picture.) Every year Shelby’s 7th grade class helps with the spring plantings and fall cleanup. The Phillips Foundation donated a golf cart to FOTBF and we modified it for watering. (see picture.) We received a grant to build flower boxes for the downtown Gazebo, decorate it with bunting and place decorative flower pots in front of it. The grant was also used to purchase hanging flower baskets for downtown. The City of Shelby has done a lot and helps in many ways.
Our next project was to paint the old Railroad Station building on East Main St.. The Shelby Schools Art Class then painted the silhouettes on the building.
Our first Web cam was mounted on Napoli’s Pizza’s building that was demolished in 2015. We recently purchased a new camera and mounted it beside the river.
We would like to thank the citizens, businesses, and City of Shelby for all their help and donations.
The Black Fork River is susceptible to flooding the City of Shelby. The serpentine, meandering course of the river creates many log jams. The most recent floods have occurred in 1987, 2007, and 2011 when the River reaches a height of 15' 9" it hits the bottom of the Main St. Bridge.
Most of the Black Fork’s 58-plus miles are upstream of Charles Mill Lake. The Black Fork originates west of Mansfield and flows north through Shelby, turns east then wends its way south to Mifflin.
The Black Fork starts out as an intermittent creek south of U.S. 30 and west of Mansfield. A mere trickle of a stream — except after heavy rains — it snakes through a relatively flat landscape dotted with hills.
The Black Fork is fed by runoff from the hills and accelerated by its descent from higher ground. There is an elevation drop of 355 feet and then it just flattens out.This elevation drop occurs over a nine-mile stretch of Black Fork. Downstream from Shelby, it’s a different story. From Plymouth Springmill Road northeast of town, the elevation drops only 50 feet over the next 28 miles before the river eventually flows into Charles Mill Lake.
Charles Mill Lake was formed in the 1930s with the construction of a flood control dam on Black Fork. This was part of a comprehensive program in response to chronic flooding, including the devastating 1913 flood, which killed 467 people statewide. Charles Mill Dam is one of 14 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dams built along the Muskingum Watershed.
The Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District provides access at a public boat ramp off State Route 430. MWCD owns and operates Charles Mill Lake Park. (The dam falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.)
The water impounded by Charles Mill Dam turned a chain of three small lakes into one 1,350-acre lake. Historian Abraham J. Baughman wrote in 1909 that the Mifflin Lakes, originally named the Petersburg Lakes, were remarkably deep. Baughman claimed that the 60-acre lower lake — the biggest of the three — was believed to have been 50-100 feet deep. However, with the massive expansion of surface water forming Charles Mill Lake, the average depth was reduced to eight feet.
Over the years, topsoil that washed downstream from the upper Black Fork reduced the average depth to five feet.
Charles Mill Damn
HELP KEEP THE RIVERCAM AND BEAUTIFICATION PROCESS GOING
The Black Fork River is a principal tributary of the Mohican River and is 58.4 miles (94 km) long in north-central Ohio in the United States. The Black Fork River drains an area of 351 square miles (909 km) and is part of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District.
The Black Fork starts about 7 miles (11 km) west of Mansfield in Richland County, and initially flows northward through the city of Shelby, then eastward across northern Richland County before turning southeast for the remainder of its course through eastern Richland and southern Ashland Counties, past the towns of Perrysville and Loudonville. It joins the Clear Fork in Ashland County to form the Mohican River, about 2 miles (3 km) southwest of Loudonville.
A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dam in Ashland County, completed in 1936, causes the Black Fork to form Charles Mill Lake.