MOHAWK - Discovering the Valley of the Crystals Copyright 2003
Forgotten Lifeblood of the Mohawk Valley
The streams flowing into the Mohawk River were once the lifeblood of the valley. In addition to providing clean, cold water for human consumption, they were the primary source of food for the earliest inhabitants. Freshwater fish, mussels and clams were abundant, and in the vast forest where game was scarce, streams attracted deer, moose, rabbit, grouse and other wildlife. Indian villages were located on high ground peninsulas jutting out into tributary valleys, and seasonal villages were located at the mouth of streams or near waterfalls where fish
congregated during spawning runs.
The Lansing Kill offers excellent fishing at the bottom of Boonville gorge.
When Europeans and their descendants settled in the Valley they used tributary water for their farmsteads and to power mills. Prior to the introduction of steam power, there were literally thousands of water-powered mills on the streams that ran into the Mohawk River. Even when waterpower was no longer needed, tributary water was used for cleaning, cooling, mixing, diluting and waste removal. Tributaries like Sauquoit Creek and Cayadutta Creek were so polluted with industrial and municipal waste they "stunk to high heaven."
Because there were so many dams and mills on some streams, they became trickles of colored water between mill ponds, especially during the summer months. Some of the larger streams like West Canada Creek and East Canada Creek were used to float logs to sawmills or pulp mills, and then used to dispose of the waste. Tanneries added to the pollution by dumping hide scrapings, hair and tanning chemicals. Cheese factories and other food processing plants also dumped their refuse in streams. Except in the headwaters and near milldams fish were non-existent.
By the mid 1800s most Mohawk Valley tributaries were polluted, but in the late 1800s and early 1900s when many mills moved to the larger streams, some of the smaller streams recovered and fishing improved dramatically. But it wasn't until the mid 1970s when New York State enacted and enforced its Clean Water Act that both municipalities and industries stopped dumping raw sewage into streams. A number of industries closed their doors or moved elsewhere, but many joined with municipal, county and state governments to fund the construction of waste water treatment plants. In a relatively short time, most pollutants disappeared from these streams, and fish and wildlife returned.
Streams like the Cayadutta were once so polluted they "stunk to high heaven."
Natural fish production has returned to many of these streams. On some "trout streams" where public fishing is permitted and natural production cannot keep up with the demand, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and local sportsmen stock fish each year.
Although some Mohawk Valley tributaries have been impounded to provide municipal water supplies, power-generating facilities and to feed the Erie (Barge) Canal, the importance of most of these streams has diminished. Their waters are seldom used for household or industry, and with so many posted roadside areas, only a few are fished, hunted or explored.
Because these tributaries are so much a part of the history of the Mohawk Valley and because I like to see wonders of nature, wildlife, wildflowers and wild places . . . and catch fish, I plan to walk and/or canoe most of them. How much of the stream I explore will depend on its historical significance, accessibility and how good the fishing is.
Except for the canoeing runs, most discovery trips start at the mouth and progress upstream. When I see posted signs along these streams, I cross to the other side or try to obtain permission from the landowner. I carry a fishing rod on most of these outings, but I'm also looking for flora, fauna, waterfalls, gorges, potholes, Indian sites, old dams, mills, bridges, trails and roads.
Canoeing Schoharie Creek is not always easy but the rewards are many.
I note the date, times and weather for each outing because these factors so often determine water levels and temperature, fish and wildlife activity, and the types of vegetation along these streams. For the most part I use departure, arrival and travel times rather than distance, because distance is often irrelevant considering the terrain and condition of the streambed. Climbing a waterfalls, and walking a stream criss-crossed with downed trees takes a lot longer than walking the same distance on a flat, limestone streambed. Likewise canoeing meandering stillwater takes a lot longer than floating a fast-flowing stream.
Although each stream and each discovery trip is unique, some of the information is repetitive, especially on streams in the same area of the valley. To do each stream justice, I try to be specific as to the composition of the streambed, rock formations, and flora and fauna. Whenever possible, I include information about the historical significance of the stream and note unique historical or geological sites.
On most of these trips I wear hip boots, but switch to neoprene waders during the coldest weather and to sneakers or wading shoes in the summer. I carry cameras, binoculars, raingear, lunch and a few fishing lures in a daypack. My fishing tackle and lures were pretty much the same on each stream; an ultralight spinning rod and gold lures, usually a Phoebe spoon because it works well on trout and bass in shallow water. I also use crayfish and minnow imitation plugs, and on rare occasions live bait.
The tributaries are listed---left to right, top to bottom---in goegraphical order, starting near the source of the Mohawk River and progressing downstream.
|West Branch||Lansing Kill||Wells Creek||Wheelers Creek|
|Nine Mile Creek||Crane Creek||Oriskany Creek||Sauquoit Creek|
|Reall CreekAugust 6, 2004||Starch Factory Creek||Ferguson Creek||Sterling Creek|
|Moyer Creek||Steele Creek||Fulmer Creek||West Canada Creek
-- Old City Brook
- -Black Creek
|Nowadaga Creek||East Canada Creek||Crum Creek||Timmerman Creek|
|Zimmerman Creek||Caroga Creek||Ostquago Creek||Canajoharie Creek|
|Flat Creek||Knauderack Creek||Lasher Creek||Yatesville Creek|
|Briggs Run||Van Wie Creek||Cayadutta Creek||Danascara Creek|
|Aurieskill||Schoharie Creek||Kayaderosseras||S. Chuctanunda Creek|
|N. Chuctanunda Creek||Evas Kill||Chaughtanoonda||Sandsea Kill|
|Verf Kill||Moccasin Kill||Plotterkill||Alplaus Kill|
|Lisha Kill||Stony Creek||Shakers Creek||Delphus Kill|
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