Still working … still raining

We hope to host visitors soon!

We hope to host visitors again soon!

If you’ve been to Historic Yates Mill County Park recently, you’ve probably been surprised and possibly been dismayed to see that the repairs to Yates Mill’s forebay are still incomplete. We share your frustration.

The problem holding us up is how to keep the pond’s water level consistently low enough to safely remove the old forebay. The new material is ready and awaiting installation, but we have to tear out the leaky old forebay first. And we can’t do that if there’s a danger of a heavy rain sending water spilling into that gap, where it can potentially damage the waterwheel, the underside of the mill and the mill machinery.

Our partners at Wake County have installed several siphons to bring and keep the water level down. But each time we get about where we need to be, Mother Nature opens up the skies. So far, the rain has come down too fast for the siphons to match. But a fourth siphon was just installed and, we hope, will do the trick. We’re giving it about a week – to mid-April – at which point the YMA officers; our miller, William Robbins; and Wake County’s representatives will decide whether it’s safe to go ahead with the work.

You may wonder why we haven’t opened that big drainpipe you can see just below the forebay. Wake County, which is in charge of the pond’s level, is reluctant to do that because the pipe has not been opened in years and we’re not 100 percent sure it will be operable. If it gets stuck open or jammed with underwater debris, there’s a danger of draining the pond. Think of the disastrous consequences for our wildlife! The option is still there, but we’ll see first how the siphons do.

We’ve also thought about stopping the project and resuming next fall. Several factors weigh against that. For one thing, we’d like to get the project over with now, during a time of year when we traditionally see fewer tours. We don’t like to deny a tour to any visitor, but our visits usually begin picking up over the late summer and hit their peak in the fall. If we call off the project now, we’d have to resume in the fall before winter weather comes again, and that would affect even more guests than we’ve already had to turn away. Also, the wood that’s already been prepped for the project will age and potentially warp by fall. We want to get it in place while it’s green.

We hope you can stretch your patience just a little further while we try to make the best decisions for this finicky, but beloved old treasure of a building. If you have any thoughts or concerns, we welcome them — just drop us a line at

Right now, we’re crossing our fingers that the mill will be ready to reopen by mid to late May. In the meantime, Historic Yates Mill County Park is open on its regular schedule. Come out and enjoy a walk by the millpond. We hope, soon enough, that you’ll be able to watch the repairs as they occur.



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