MOHAWK - Discovering the Valley of the Crystals    Copyright 2002

Chapter 12  The Tributuaries
Sauquoit Creek - Modern Day Success Story
Discovery Part I - Bad as Bad Can Be Discovery Part IV - Nature Bounces Back
Discovery Part II - Anything For a Good Meal Discovery Part V - A Manmade Trout Stream
Discovery Part III - Old Dams /Concrete Trout Stream

From its source near Paris Station, Sauquoit Creek flows generally north for 21 miles. It passes through the villages of Cassville, Clayville, Sauquoit, Chadwicks, Washington Mills, New Hartford, New York Mills and Whitesboro before meandering through a mile of mud to the Mohawk River.
    It is without a doubt one of the most historically important tributaries in the upper Mohawk Valley. After the Revolutionary War it was the site of the first successful sawmill and gristmill in what is now Oneida County. Settlers came from miles around to have logs sawed into planks and wheat ground to flour. The soil was so rich it produced crops that astounded the New England settlers. In a relatively short time Judge White's settlement, built around the first mills in the area, prospered and grew in leaps and bounds. Whitesboro was expected to become the "boomtown" of the upper valley, but it was not to be. Fort Schuyler (Utica) with its year-round port and major north-south crossing eclipsed White's Sauquoit Creek settlement.

Not far from this beautiful section of Sauquoit Creek were the
first successful grist mill and saw mill in Oneida County.
    While Utica became a major transportation and distribution center, most of the early mills in the area were powered by Sauquoit Creek water. Dams, raceways and mills were built along the stream and villages grew up around them. Even when water was no longer required to power machinery it was used for cooling and cleaning.
    For some 200 years Sauquoit Creek was one of the most productive and most polluted streams in the Mohawk Valley. As the mills closed, pollution decreased considerably, but it was the dogged efforts of sportsmen-conservationists working with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that turned much of this polluted millstream into a trout stream. Local sportsmen cleaned up trash and turned in polluters. Although some residual pollution still exists, Sauquoit Creek is a modern day success story. Today many sections of the upper creek are "Public Fishing" waters.

Discovery: Bad as Bad Can Be 

August 12, 2002, predicted 90, Sunny

    As near as I could determine there were no historical sites on the last mile of Sauquoit Creek. And as near as I could tell the water was too warm and muddy to hold fish. So, the plan was simple: park at the Sewage Treatment Plant Pump Station in Whitesboro, walk to the Mohawk River and follow Sauquoit Creek back to Whitesboro.
    Denny likes to catch fish, so when we started at 9 a.m., I threw him a carrot. "There's a good chance we'll catch smallmouths at the mouth of the creek."

The streamside purple loosestrife (left) and bamboo (right) were too thick to walk through.

    Nothing was as expected. The trail from the pump station ended just beyond the railroad tracks, so we tried to walk the shoreline and wade the creek. Bamboo, burdocks and purple loosestrife grew so thick along the bank it was a brush-busting nightmare. Piles of logs, trees, limbs, shopping carts, tires and other debris filled practically every bend in the stream, so we had to climb steep muddy banks to get around them. In some area weeds were growing up through piles of logs on top of the streambank, making it impossible to walk through without breaking a leg.

It took an hour to walk one mile to the mouth of Sauquoit Creek.

     When we encountered an occasional grove of giant willows where we could walk unimpeded, we abandoned the creek and headed north to the river. It took us over an hour to walk the mile to the mouth of Sauquoit Creek. When we got there we were tired, hot and miserable. To make matters worse we didn't catch a single fish at the mouth of the creek.
This must have been what this Mohawk Floodplain stretch of the Sauquoit was like when the first settlers came to this area. No wonder the main road has always been a mile upstream.
    I had told Denny we would probably find an ATV trail that we could follow back to Whitesboro. Wrong again. Apparently no one had any desire to travel in this area.

We caught several fallfish from the pools in  the Mohawk Floodplain section of the creek.

     On the way back we decided to stick as close to the creek as possible. Surprise! Surprise! We discovered a number of deep holes where we caught more than a dozen fallfish and some small largemouth bass on gold spoons. The biggest fallfish was a 12 1/2-incher. No telling what we could have caught with live bait.
    My notes indicate that a few stretches of the creek were downright beautiful, that we saw a great blue heron, a couple of kingfisher, three mallards, crows, crayfish and a dead mud puppy, plus such wildflowers as touch-me-nots, forget-me-nots, and purple loosestrife. But, all that was diminished by the fact that by the time we got back to the Jeep we were tired, sore, scratched and soaked with sweat.
    Denny announced unequivocally, "That was the worse trip so far."
    I assured him that everything on Sauquoit Creek would be uphill . . . uh upstream . . . from here on out. For a change I was right.

Discovery: Anything For a Good Meal

August 19, 2002 , 75 degrees, Sunny

    One thing Denny likes more than fishing is eating, so I told him to bring a change of clothes and shoes. We parked the Jeep behind Symeon's Restaurant at 8:45 a.m., left a sign on the windshield that read: "EXPLORING SAUQUOIT CREEK - BE BACK FOR LUNCH", and drove down to where we left off the week before.

Denny caught a "nice trout" from a pool just downstream from the Oriskany Boulevard Bridge.

It's less than a quarter mile from the Main Street Bridge in Whitesboro to the Pump Station, and most of that water is slow, deep and muddy. But, it was also the approximate location of  the old mill site. I told Denny I'd stick to the creek and he could walk the road up to the bridge and start fishing where  there are some holes and runs where he might catch fallfish or bass. He didn't

Grapevines, bamboo and purple loosestrife grew along this wooded section of the creek.

I climbed down the steep channelized creek bank and stepped into the muddy Sauquoit at 9 o'clock. A gold Phoebe produced some big swirls and a couple hits, but nothing held on. As I waded to the middle of the stream, a great blue heron started to land, but saw me and veered off. Despite the muddy water, the tree-lined creek looked quite beautiful. Too beautiful to pass up a photo, so while standing knee-deep in water---fishing rod wedged in my belt---I removed the daypack, unzipped it, removed the cameras, put the pack back on and took several photographs. Then I reversed the process to secure the cameras. Not sure it was worth the risk of dunking expensive photographic equipment, but at the time it seemed like the right thing to do.
    I passed under the Main Street Bridge at 9:15. Five minutes later I saw Denny fishing in a pool downstream from the Oriskany Boulevard Bridge. He had just released a "nice brown."
    There were some good pools and runs below and above the bridge, and along a highway ramp retaining wall, but we didn't get a hit. Just upstream from the wall was another bridge where Denny caught a 4-inch largemouth bass and spooked a couple of mallards.

We caught several small largemouth bass in the Whitesboro area.

  Across from the Whitesboro School I caught a 10-inch fallfish. Behind the recently closed Farm Store, I discovered a rock outcrop, the first thus far. In the early days milldams were built on rock outcrops. Could this be the site of the first mill dam in Oneida County? I doubt it. More likely the mill was further downstream where creek channelization or highway and bridge construction destroyed the site.
Above the Farm Store, the creek parallels Route 5 for a few hundred feet and then  runs for more than a mile behind car and truck dealerships. We expected to find tires, batteries and other auto-related junk in the creek, but I'm elated to report it was quite clean and relatively free of trash.
    If it wasn't for occasional announcements from their PA systems, we could hardly tell it was "business as usual" just beyond the trees. Along this stretch we discovered a limestone-slab crossing, deer and raccoon tracks,  and caught some fair-size fallfish. One hole produced a 7-inch largemouth bass.
We discovered a number of log holes in the section that runs behind auto dealerships.

Mud Creek enters Sauquoit Creek almost in back of Symeon's Restaurant. I couldn't resist a quick walk up the creek to see if there were any fishing holes. Discovering none, I returned to the creek and told Denny it was time for lunch.
    Under the shade of a huge streamside willow, we took off our wet pants and shoes and changed to dry before walking into the restaurant.
    Symeon's features Greek food and is one of the most popular restaurants in the area, so when Denny ordered his usual hamburger, I couldn't believe it. Neither could the waitress who said with a big smile, "A hamburger? You come to a Greek Restaurant and order a hamburger?"
    I told her I had planned this discovery trip so we could end up here for lunch so Denny could enjoy some great Greek food. With both of us on his case, he reluctantly ordered a marinated chicken wrap sandwich and loved it.
    As the waitress was delivering a  plate of marinated lamb on a skewer (Souvlaki) to another customer, she showed it to Denny and said , "This is what you should have ordered."

We took off wet shoes and dropped our pants in Symeon's parking lot.

Follow the path of this discovery trip by clicking on Mohawk Valley Maps: by Maptech.
Type Whitesboro, select New York, press GO!

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