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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
Chapter 4: The Mohawk Valley Drainage System.

[This information is from Vol. I, pp. 100-106 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. Some images have been relocated to the area in the text where they are discussed. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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Its streams and lakes — Mohawk River and watershed — Valley lake systems — Points of interest — Topography, mountain and hill systems, peaks and plateaus.

Three great drainage systems of the United States are represented in New York State, as follows: the Atlantic, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence, and the Gulf of Mexico. The Hudson and its tributary, the Mohawk, belong to the Atlantic system. The ten great drainage basins of the State are the Hudson-Mohawk, Champlain, St. Lawrence, Lake Ontario, Erie, Alleghany (Mississippi River-Gulf of Mexico), Susquehanna, Delaware, Passaic, and Long Island.

Mohawk River and Watershed

The Mohawk River watershed is composed of sections of the six Mohawk Valley counties, as follows: Montgomery is the only county which has all its territory in the Mohawk River drainage basin. About three-quarters of Schenectady County drain into the Mohawk, while the southern portion is in the Hudson Valley watershed. All of Schoharie is in the Mohawk watershed except the Southwestern part, in which lie the headwaters of the Delaware River. The western and southwestern parts of Fulton County are in the Mohawk basin, while the eastern third is in the Sacandaga watershed. The central river section of Herkimer County is in the Mohawk's watershed. The southern and southwest parts are in the watershed of the Susquehanna; the upper section, comprising fully one-half of the county, is in the Black River drainage basin. The central section of Oneida County lies in the Mohawk's watershed; the northeastern in the Black River drainage area; the western in the Oneida Lake basin, and the southern section in the Susquehanna watershed.

[Map: The Mohawk River, Its Streams and Watershed.]

[Map of New York State Drainage Basins.]

Besides these six Mohawk Valley counties parts of four other counties lie within the area drained by the Mohawk. The headwaters of the Mohawk lie within south central Lewis County. A few hundred acres of northern Otsego County are drained by the Otsquago, and part of the northern section is watered by the Canajoharie, both tributaries of the Mohawk. The northwestern and western parts of Albany County lie in the Mohawk Valley, as well as part of the city of Cohoes and of Waterford at the northern side of the outlet of the Mohawk into the Hudson. The southern part of Saratoga County borders on the Mohawk, and its extreme southern portion is in the Mohawk Valley drainage system. The southwestern part of the wilderness of Hamilton County is in the West Canada Creek drainage section, which rises in West Canada Lake, the highest lake in the Adirondack region.

Reference to the drainage map of the Mohawk River will give the reader a clear idea of the Mohawk watershed and its principal streams. There are many small streams omitted from this list which are dry beds in summer and raging torrents in spring and fall. Some of these have considerable historical or geological significance but unless this gives the stream great importance it is not mentioned here, where only the Mohawk's main tributaries are given.

The Mohawk River is about 135 miles long from its source to its outlet into the Hudson. Its headwater west branch rises near Mohawk Hill, in the extreme southern part of Lewis County. Its eastern branch rises on the southern limits of Boonville and this stream is known as the Lansing Kill (lying in a deep gorge southward to the junction of the two streams at Hillside, just above North Western.

The Mohawk's bed from North Western south for about five miles is occupied by the Delta reservoir of the Barge Canal. This is one of the two largest lakes in the Mohawk Valley, the other and the larger being the Hinckley Reservoir on West Canada Creek above Hinckley. The Delta dam is an important feeder for the Barge Canal summit level.

At Rome the Mohawk makes an abrupt turn (19 miles airline from its source) and runs southeast. Nine miles west of Utica is Nine Mile Creek, entering the Mohawk on the north shore opposite the Oriskany battlefield monument.

Going eastward, and with their north shore streams designated by "ns" and the south shore by "ss", the main streams of the Mohawk are listed as follows, according to class, and the point of their outlet:

Oriskany Creek (second class, ss), Oriskany; Sauquoit Creek (ss), Whitesboro; Reel's Creek (ns), Utica; Starch Factory Creek (ss), East Utica limits; Ferguson Creek (ss), Harbor separating Frankfort Hill and Dutch Hill; Sterling Creek (ns), opposite Dutch Hill; Moyer Creek (ss), at Frankfort; Gulf Stream or Steele's Creek (ss), at Ilion; Fulmer Creek (ss), at Mohawk; West Canada Creek (first class tributary, 60 miles long, rising in West Canada Lake, highest lake in the Adirondacks), at Herkimer; Spoon Creek (ss), at Fort Herkimer; Beaver Brook (ns), opposite Jacksonburg; Asteronga (ns), at Little Falls; Herkimer (ss), near Gen. Herkimer Homestead; Crum Creek (ns), opposite Indian Castle; Nowadaga (ss), at Indian Castle; East Canada Creek, second class tributary, at East Creek; Crum Creek (ns); Timmerman Creek (ns), at Upper St. Johnsville; Zimmerman Creek (ns), at St. Johnsville; Garoga Creek (ns), at Palatine Church; Otsquago Creek (ss), at Fort Plain; Canajoharie Creek (ss), at Canajoharie; Plattekill or Onagerea (ss), at Sprakers Basin; Knauderack or Kanagora (ns), at Montgomery County Farm at Schenck's Hollow; Wasontha or Yatesville Creek (ss), at Randall; Brigg's Run (ns), east of Yosts; Cayadutta (ns), at Fonda; Dadanoscara (ns), one mile west of Tribes Hill; Aurieskill (ss), at Auriesville; Schoharie River (ss), first tributary of the Mohawk, 75 miles long, rising in the Catskill region near Catskill, at Fort Hunter; Chuctanunda (ns) and South Chuctanunda (ss), at Amsterdam; Evaskill (ns), at Cranesville; Chaughtanoonda (ns) at Hoffmans; Sandsea Kill at Pattersonville; Platterkill (ns), east of Rotterdam; two creeks at Schenectady (ss), now largely disappeared under the city streets; Alplauskill (ns) at Alplaus; Lishakill (ss), at Niskayuna; Stony Creek (ns), at Visscher's Ferry. Thence eastward about twelve miles to the outlet of the Mohawk into the Hudson, between the cities of Cohoes and Troy.

The five chief tributaries of the Mohawk west to east are the Oriskany, West Canada, East Canada, Garoga Creek and the Schoharie River.

The chief tributaries of the West Canada are North Creek, White Creek, Black Creek, Four Mile Creek, South Branch, Spruce Lake Creek.

The chief tributary of the Oriskany is Dean Creek.

The chief tributaries of the East Canada are Spruce Creek, Middle Sprite, Fish Creek, Ayers Creek, Brayhouse, Black Cat Outlet.

The chief tributaries of the Garoga are Mill Creek, North Creek, Sprite Creek, Peck Pond Outlet.

The chief tributaries of the Schoharie are Fly Creek, Cobleskill, Fox Creek, Panther Creek, Keyser Creek, West Kill, Manor Kill, Bear Kill, Batavia Kill, East Kill. The Schoharie rises near Haines Falls in southern Greene County about eight miles from the Hudson and ten miles from Catskill on the Hudson.

Mohawk Valley Lake Systems

The chief lake systems of the Mohawk Valley are mainly in its Adirondack region. The two largest bodies of water on the northern side of the Valley are Lake Delta (five miles long) and Hinckley Lake (eight miles long), both artificial reservoirs of the Barge Canal. Mirror Lake, a small but beautiful lakelet, on the northern limits of Herkimer, is another artificial lake, created by the construction of the village Hydraulic Power Canal.

Besides Hinckley Lake, the West Canada has Jerseyfield Lake, Honnedaga Lake, Wilmurt Lake, and the West Canada Lakes which are its headwaters. The West Canada Lakes lie in a wild, wooded and rugged mountain section, well within the southern limits of the Adirondacks in Hamilton County. West Canada Lake has the distinction of being the highest body of water in the Adirondack Mountains, lying 2,367 feet above the sea level. The second highest is Honnedaga, also a West Canada Creek lake, with an altitude of 2,187 feet.

East Canada Creek rises in Morehouse Lake (1,975 feet sea elevation). There are a dozen or more tributary lakelets and ponds in the rugged Adirondack country of small mountains in this section southwest of Piseco Lake. The chief ones are Big Alderbed and Ferris Lake. The principal lake region of East Canada Creek is the Canada Lake group lying in the northwestern section of Fulton County. They drain into East Creek through Sprite Creek, now used for a local hydro-electric power station, one of the four power developments of the East Canada, the others being at Dolgeville, Ingham's Mills and Beardslee Falls.

Canada Lake and West Canada (surrounded by rugged mountain peaks) have an altitude of 1,542 feet. The other lakes of the group are Green Lake, Otter Lake, Pine Lake, Nine Corner Lake, Middle Lake, West Lake, East Lake, Irving Pond, Bellows Lake. Canada Lake is a great summer resort place.

The headwaters of the Garoga comprise three chief headwater lakes: Garoga Lake, East Garoga Lake (with altitudes of 1,450 feet). Peck Lake (altitude 1,360 feet, the largest and most picturesque of the Garoga group) rises in a swamp (near Peters Corners), from which the West Stony Creek runs northeastward into the Sacandaga. A group of ponds lies on the top of the Adirondack escarpment facing Gloversville, called Mayfield Mountain — and which is a northward extension of Nose Ridge. They are Mountain Lake, Vandenberg Pond and Woodworth Lake (which lies close to the steep edge of the mountain about four miles from Gloversville). Garoga Lake, like Canada Lake, is a favorite summer resort place for Mohawk Valley people.

Woodworth Lake has an elevation of 1,620 feet and is half a mile west of the mountain peak with an elevation of 1,960 feet, and another peak close by with 2,000 feet sea elevation and 1,200 feet above Mayfield Creek. These peaks are less than four miles northeast of the Gloversville city limits, and easily seen from the town which is truly the "Gateway to the Adirondacks."

The Chuctanunda has the artificial Amsterdam power reservoir, lying in the town of Galway, Saratoga County. Two lakes form the headwaters of the South Chuctanunda, which enters the Mohawk on the south shore at Amsterdam. They are Mariaville Pond (1,298 feet sea elevation) and Featherstone Lake (1,322 feet sea elevation), which lie on a plateau forming the summit of the Yantapooshaberg. Featherstone Lake was the seat of George W. Featherstonaugh [i.e., Featherstonhaugh], a prominent public man and scholar and the originator of the New York Central Railroad, who lived here in the early Nineteenth Century.

At Scotia, opposite Schenectady, is Sanders Lake, a pond cut off by the filling of one of the many Mohawk channels here.

There are no lakes along the southern side of the Mohawk watershed from the Oriskany to the Schoharie. Cedar Lake, the headwaters of the Unadilla and Little Unadilla Lake (at Miller's Mills) lie in Herkimer County, but are in the Susquehanna basin.

There are a number of ponds in the Schoharie watershed. There is a pond at Mineral Springs, near Cobleskill, Bear Swamp Pond and Reservoir draining into Oak Creek, a branch of the Cobleskill. The largest lake in the Schoharie basin is Warner Lake (1,190 feet sea elevation) in Albany County, which forms the main headwater of Fox Creek, chief tributary of the Schoharie.

Mohawk Valley Points of Interest

There are a number of Mohawk Valley geological landscape and other points of interest which deserve mention in a chapter dealing with the Mohawk Valley and its watershed. From the source of the Mohawk eastward, these chief landscape features are as follows:

Lansing Kill Gorge, Delta Lake, West Canada Creek falls and chasm, Ilion Gorge, Little Falls Gorge, East Creek Falls, Van Hornesville Gorge, cave and burning spring on the Otsquago, Canajoharie Creek Falls and Gorge, salt spring at Salt Springville and Sharon Springs (famous for its mineral waters) on the headwaters of the Canajoharie, the Noses, Mitchells Cave on the South Nose, Kinquariones, Touareuna, Wolf Hollow, Yantapooshaberg, Platterkill Falls, Cohoes Falls. On the Cobleskill branch of the Schoharie, is Howes Cave and Bouck's Falls on Panther Creek, both in Schoharie County. Besides the foregoing there are two iron mines at Clinton and one at Salisbury Center.

[Photo: Mohawk Arrow and Spear Heads.]

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