Part 10 – Waterfalls along the Black River
Separate coverage for the waterfalls on the Black River
The Black River watershed
The Black River watershed encompasses an area of 1916 square miles in Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida, Herkimer and Hamilton Counties. The Black River flows from the Adirondack Mountains northwest to Lake Ontario. The two main Black River tributaries are the Moose and Beaver Rivers. On the Beaver River, the Regulating District operates the Stillwater Reservoir, which has a 10.5-square-mile surface area and a 48-mile shoreline. On the Moose River, the Regulating District operates the Fulton Chain of Lakes via dams at Old Forge and Sixth Lake. The combined storage capacity of these reservoirs is over forty billion gallons. Together, this network of dams and reservoirs has greatly reduced flooding and remains the source of water flow integral to the hydroelectric generating projects and industrial operations in Jefferson, Lewis and Herkimer Counties. The Regulating District also owns and maintains a dam at Hawkinsville on the Black River in Oneida County.
Facts about this Watershed
The Black River drains the western slope of the Adirondack Mountains and the eastern edge of the Tug Hill Plateau before flowing north and west and emptying into Lake Ontario. The Black River watershed is mostly forested and sparsely populated; the primary population center is located in Watertown. Location: North central New York State, Much of Jefferson, Lewis and Herkimer Counties, and Portions western Hamilton and northern Oneida Counties. Size: 1,920 square miles of land area. Rivers and Streams: 3,910 miles of freshwater rivers and streams. Major tributary watersheds to the Black River: Moose River (872 river/stream miles), Beaver River (624 miles), Independence River (207 miles), Deer River (201 miles) Lakes, Ponds and Reservoirs: 179 significant freshwater lake and reservoir segments (33,500 acres): Stillwater Reservoir (6195 lake/reservoir acres), Fulton Chain of Lakes (4310 acres), Lake Lila (1,414 acres), Big Moose Lake (11,286 acres), Woodhull Lake (1,258 acres)
The Black River Dam War
The Adirondack Park was created in 1892 and established as “Forever Wild” in 1894, but that doesn’t mean the 6 million acres of land have always been free from controversy surrounding their use. One of the most serious threats to the Park’s wildlife and waterways came in the 1940s in the form of a series of battles that would come to be known as The Black River Dam War. The Burd Amendment & The Machold Storage Law The technical beginning of The Black River Dam War was the passage of the Burd Amendment in 1913. This piece of legislation allowed for 3% of the Forest Preserve’s 6 million acres (180,000 acres) to be flooded to facilitate the creation of reservoirs, although its consequences didn’t appear fully for three more decades. The Machold Storage Law followed two years after the Burd Amendment and stated that anyone could create a river regulating district, subject to approval by the Conservation Department. Once approved, the district could build dams, construct reservoirs, and alter or regulate river flow. Two such districts were formed under the Machold Storage Law in the early 20th century: the Black River Regulating District in 1919 and the Hudson River Regulating District in 1922. The Hudson River Regulating District’s Conklingville Dam project was approved that same year, and the Sacandaga Reservoir (now known as Great Sacandaga Lake) was subsequently created in 1930. The dam and reservoir proposals of the Black River Regulating District, though, would encounter much greater resistance from environmentalists. The Moose River Fight In 1920, the Black River Regulating District received approval on its plan to construct 12 hydroelectric dams and accompanying reservoirs on Forest Preserve Lands. Of the 12, three already existed, seven were dropped, and the remaining two became the subject of intense controversy. These two proposed dams would both be located on the southern portion of the Moose River, a tributary that feeds into the Black River. One was to be constructed at Higley Mountain, and the other at Panther Mountain, and the two together would flood the Moose River Plains. The Moose River Plains, however, is the largest winter deer-yarding ground in the Adirondack Park, and flooding it would’ve had a significantly negative impact on deer populations and sporting. The project also would’ve eliminated six ponds and substantial portions of the Red and Indian Rivers and smaller streams. While the Adirondack League Club (ALC) opposed the Panther Mountain dam (which would’ve flooded the Club’s land), few people or groups voiced their concerns about the Higley Mountain dam, and the project was approved in 1945. In 1945, Paul Schaefer and other conservation leaders learned of the proposed Higley Mountain dam, and to their shock and displeasure discovered that the necessary paperwork had already been signed. The land that would be flooded as part of the project unfortunately fell within the 3% that was allowed by the Burd Amendment, and state officials told the conservationists that nothing could be done. Not willing to accept this answer, Schaefer and his colleagues began an anti-dam campaign and created the Adirondack Moose River Committee. They created printed materials, reached out to environmental and sporting groups, and gathered as much support as possible against the Higley Mountain Dam project, ultimately growing their committee to include more than one thousand local and national organizations. Two years later, the Adirondack Moose River Committee earned a monumental victory as Governor Thomas Dewey changed his mind and opposed the dam project. Unfortunately, though, the relief would prove to be short-lived. The Panther Mountain Project Resurfaces Just two weeks after the victory by Schaefer and company, Governor Dewey turned against the conservationists once again when he announced that he was now in support of the Panther Mountain dam project, which was to be even larger and more devastating than the one at Higley Mountain. As it turns out, Dewey had struck a deal with the dam builders, and effectively agreed to exchange his approval of the Higley project for that of the Panther project. Once again, those in opposition to the construction of the dam voiced their opinions, with hundreds of organizations – including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – siding against the project. In 1949, the State Supreme Court heard the case, and ultimately declared the Panther Mountain project to be unconstitutional. The Stokes Act & The Ostrander Amendment It was eventually discovered that more than thirty other reservoirs had been planned throughout the Adirondack Park. To prevent such projects from being carried out in the future, additional legislation was put in place. In 1950, Governor Dewey signed the Stokes Act that would prevent the building of reservoirs in Herkimer and Hamilton Counties on the Moose River’s South Branch for any reason other than municipal water supply. The following year, the Ostrander Amendment was introduced in order to permanently reverse the Burd Amendment and outlaw the building of river-regulating reservoirs on Forest Preserve land. Voters passed the Ostrander Amendment in 1953. One Last Fight Even with the addition of the Stokes Act and the Ostrander Amendment, dam supporters still managed to introduce an amendment in 1954 to allow the Panther Mountain dam project to continue. Although it successfully passed through two successive legislatures, it was ultimately defeated by voters in 1956, bringing the Black River Dam War to its final end.
The Black River is a 125-mile-long, blackwater river that empties into the eastern end of Lake Ontario on the shore of Jefferson County. The river flows in a generally northwest direction, with its valley dividing the Adirondack Mountains on the east from the Tug Hill region to the west. The Black River originates at North Lake in the foothills of the Adirondacks, in Herkimer County, about 25 miles east of Boonville. The river flows west into Oneida County then north, past Forestport and Boonville into Lewis County. At Lyons Falls, it is joined by the Moose River from the east just above Lyons Falls, where the river drops 70 feet over a gneiss cliff. Near Glenfield the Black River receives the smaller tributaries of Otter Creek and the Independence River, also from the east. Further north, it passes Lowville, then receives the Beaver River from the east, then the Deer River, its only major western tributary. Starting above Carthage the river briefly divides Lewis and Jefferson Counties before crossing entirely into Jefferson County, where it turns sharply west toward Lake Ontario, flowing past Great Bend, Black River and Watertown. Below Watertown it enters a canyon, well known for its challenging rapids. The river ends at Lake Ontario in the village of Dexter, about 10 miles west of Watertown, where it empties into the Black River Bay and Marsh, which are parts of the Golden Crescent. For the last few miles it forms the boundary between the Towns of Brownville and Hounsfield.
There are at least 17 dams on the Black River, with 8 in the upper part above Lyons Falls, and 9 below Watertown. The upper and lower reaches of the river have a steep gradient and were originally developed to provide mechanical power for mills, such as the old Georgia-Pacific paper mill in Lyons Falls, and later hydroelectricity. The three uppermost dams, forming North Lake, Kayuta Lake and the smaller Forestport Reservoir are the only structures forming significant impoundments. The other dams are run-of-the-river, with no appreciable storage capacity, so power generation is entirely dependent on the natural flow of the river combined with releases from upstream reservoirs, which is relatively consistent except for drought years.
Whitewater rafting and kayaking are popular on some stretches of the river The Black River Canyon, which begins in Watertown and ends in Brownville. The Black River Canyon is one of few whitewater streams which have reliable flows throughout the summer. The “Canyon” itself is not actually present until you reach Brownville and end in the Dexter Reservoir.
Fishing and Canoeing the Black River in Jefferson, Lewis and Oneida counties
The Black River originates in the western Adirondacks and then follows the divide between the Tug Hill Plateau and the Adirondack foothills to Carthage. For the lower 31 miles it follows a wide curve to Watertown and then a gorge that goes straight to Lake Ontario. There are substantial changes in gradient, from the steeper slope of the upper 18 miles to the flat meanders of the middle segment and the white water rapids of the lower river gorge. The upper segment goes from North Lake to Lyons Falls (42.6 miles) and ranges from mountain lakes to a mountain stream to a sandy river. Canoeing is good for the reach from Forestport to Hawkinsville and from Norton Road to Lyons Falls. There are two lakes, North and South lakes; two reservoirs, Kayuta and Forestport; two smaller dam-pools at Hawkinsville and Denley; and, a tier of three dams at Port Leyden. The middle segment goes from Lyons Falls to Carthage (40 miles) and is particularly low gradient (less than 10 feet in 40 miles) with no dams. High Falls is at the upper end of this. Spring flood waters make this area like a lake. The three larger tributaries, Otter Creek, Independence River and Deer River. Rocky areas are more common upstream of Greig, and meanders are extensive near Lowville. The lower segment continues downstream to Lake Ontario (31 miles). The last mile completes the transition to Lake Ontario. The Long Falls in Carthage extends through an industrial segment, and there is a long portage around it. Continuing downstream, there are nine dams still in place to Watertown. The remains of the industrial development which used this water power has been updated by hydro power companies which provide convenient access and portages around most of the dams or bypass reaches. In the middle of Watertown is Great Falls, at Mill Street, and this is the historic barrier to fish from Lake Ontario. Fish ladders built in the 1980’s at Dexter and Glen Park allow steelhead and Chinook salmon to swim as far as Water Street in Watertown. Canoeing and boating through this gorge section are limited to only a few small areas. Whitewater rafting and kayaking are more popular.
North Lake, North Lake – Kayuta Lake 16.9 miles
Canoeing is not practical, but there is good fishing from the bank or by wading. This is a shallow, high gradient brook. Access for fishing is poor at Reeds Mill (posted) and Enos (posted), but public fishing access is at Crandall Falls, by lower Black Creek
Forestport Reservoir 1.4 mi. Access with a ramp is at the dam. The bay with Woodhull Creek offers special fishing
Forestport-Denley Dam 13.1 mi. There is a canoe launch at the hydro tail water site. Several access sites are along Edmond Road and at bridges. Additional access is at Hawkinsville, Camp Road, Norton Road, and River Road. Spring flows will alleviate low water problems.
Denley Dam – Lyons Falls 6.2 mi. Dams at Port Leyden (3) require portage, and a ramp at Davis Road, also provides access to the lower Moose River. A park at Lyons Falls, above the dam, offers picnic areas and bank access.
Lyons Falls – Independence River 13.2 mi. Access at Lyons Falls is at the falls and at the water treatment lagoon. There is an undeveloped access site just downstream of Burdicks Landing, (the bridge to Greig) and at Glenfield.
Independence River – Beaver River 17 mi. Access is at bridges at Lowville (Beaches Landing), at Dadville (Route 812), and at Castorland (Route 410) near the Beaver River.
Beaver River – Carthage 9.8 mi. Access is at an undeveloped site at the mouth of Deer River and at Carthage (both sides). Carthage has a waterfront park at Turning Point.
Carthage – Felts Mills 12.7 mi. Access at West Carthage Sewage Treatment Plant, above Herrings Dam, Jackson II Road around Deferiet Dam, at other dams. Black River (village) has a waterfront park.
Felts Mills – Huntingtonville at Route 3 7.4 mi. Access at Huntingtonville above Route 3. Portages are marked at dams.
Huntingtonville at Route 3 into Watertown 1.8 mi. Canoeing is possible in the impoundment at Glen Park, with access just upstream of the dam. Watertown has a waterfront park for walking and biking.
Watertown at Mill Street – Dexter 7.4 mi. Rafting and kayaking are also popular downstream of Watertown. There is good access at Dexter, with a boat ramp upstream of the dam. There are fish ladders at Glen Park and Dexter dams.
Dexter – Lake Ontario 1.5 mi. Access is found downstream of Route 12E with a boat ramp.
Subwatersheds are those areas from which groundwater and surface water drain and contribute to the flow of a larger watershed or drainage basin. Nineteen subwatersheds comprise the Black River Watershed.
STUDY AREA DELINEATION The Watershed
The Black River drains approximately 1.2 million acres of the western slopes of the Adirondack Mountains and the eastern edge of the Tug Hill Plateau before emptying into Lake Ontario near Watertown. The Adirondack portion of the watershed is drained, for the most part, by two large watercourses – the Beaver River and the Moose River – and several smaller tributaries (e.g., Independence River, Otter Creek, Woodhull Creek). The Tug Hill region of the Black River watershed, however, is characterized predominantly by numerous small tributaries flowing over steep slopes. As a whole, there are approximately 4,000 miles of rivers and streams within the watershed, as well as more than 500 lakes and ponds covering approximately 35,000 acres. Traversed by this 1.2 million acre watershed are portions of five counties – Hamilton County,
Herkimer County, Jefferson County, Lewis County, and Oneida County – and their associated cities, towns, and villages. In all, one city (Watertown), 37 towns, and 18 villages are wholly or partially located within the Black River watershed:
Black River Lower, Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Black River Middle, Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Black River Middle, Upper, Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Black Middle River, Lower, Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Black River Upper, Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
For the following streams and rivers, if you wish to see where they are located just type the search words into Dig the Falls. Otherwise there will be many Links. I have provided a link to those locations not mentioned in previous write ups.
Alder Creek, Oneida County
Baker Brook, Oneida County
Beaver River, Lewis County, Carthage, Black River, tributary to, Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Beaver Falls, Beaver Falls and Dam #2, Beaver River Falls on, Croghan, Beaverator Rapids, Belfort Falls, Belfort Falls and Dam, Croghan Island Falls, Dogleg Rapids, Eagle Falls, Eagle Falls Powerhouse and Scenic Overlook Falls, Eagle Falls, Lower Section, Effley Falls (Hydro Plant), Elmer Falls, High Falls, Beaver River, Mindscrambler Rapids, Powerline Boof Rapids, Soft Maple Falls, Soft Maple Reservoir Dam and Falls, Taylorville Falls, Taylorville Lower Falls, Sammy’s Creek, Falls on #1, #2, #3 Beaver River, Sammys Creek/Beaver River, Dam and Falls
Capidon Creek, Lewis County, Lowville, Black River, tributary to
Cold Brook, Oneida County
Cold Brook, Lewis County, Port Leyden, Black River, tributary to
Crystal Creek, Lewis County, Lowville, Black River, tributary to Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Cummings Creek, Oneida County, Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Deer River, Lewis County, Carthage, Black River, tributary to, Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Copenhagen Falls, Deer River Falls, High Falls, Kings Falls
Deerlick Creek, Jefferson County, Felt Mills, Le Ray Town, Black River, tributary to
Douglas Creek, Lewis County, Brantingham, Black River, tributary to
East Kent Creek, Oneida County
Fall Brook, Lewis County, Port Leyden, Black River, tributary to
Sand Flats State Park, Waterfalls in
Felts Mills Creek, Jefferson County, Black River, Le Ray town, Felts Mills Creek is a creek that flows into the Black River in Felts Mills
Fish Creek, Lewis County, Brantingham, Greig town, Black River, tributary to, Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Fish Creek falls on (Greig), Singing Waters Falls, Fish Creek Falls on #2
Gulf Creek, Oneida County
Gulf Creek falls on
Harvey Creek, Lewis County, Lowville, Black River, tributary to
Harvey Creek, Small Falls on
Hodge Creek, Lewis County, Lowville, Black River, tributary to
House Falls Creek, Lewis County, Glenfield, Black River, tributary to
House Creek Falls aka Houseville Creek Falls
Independence River, Lewis County, Glenfield, Black River, tributary to, Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Independence River Falls: III Rapids, Bridge Boof Rapids aka Rudd Road Falls, Hidden Falls, Fat Lady Rapids, Powerline III Rapids, The Wall Rapids, Gleasmans Falls, Independence River, Falls on, Pine Grove Rd
Indian Creek, Oneida County
Kelsey Creek, Jefferson County, Watertown, Watertown town, Black River, tributary to
Little Black Creek, Oneida County
Roberts Road, Falls on
Little Otter Creek, Brantingham, Black River, tributary to
Little Woodhull Creek
Mile Creek, Lewis County, Black River, tributary to
Mile Creek, Falls on
Mill Creek, Oneida County
Mill Creek Falls on Boonville
Mill Creek, Lewis County, Brantingham, Black River, tributary to, Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Mill Creek, Lewis County, Lowville, Black River, tributary to, Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Mill Creek Falls on #1, #2 (Gomer Hill Rd)
Miller Brook, Lewis County, Port Leyden, Black River, tributary to
Moose River, Middle Branch, Lewis County, Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Moose River, Lewis County, Port Leyden, Black River, tributary to, Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Moose River, South Branch, Lewis County, Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Agers Falls, Agers Lower Falls #1, #2, Crystal Falls, Double Drop, Fowlersville Bridge Rapids, Fowlersville Falls, North & South side, Froth Hole, Goulds Mills Falls, Magilla Falls, Lyonsdale Falls, Powerline Falls, Shurform Rapids, Sliding Rock Falls, T-Bone Falls, McKeever area Waterfalls: Dogleg Class III Rapid, House Rock Class III Rapid, Initiation Class III Rapid, Iron Bridge, Rock Island Class II+ Rapid, Rooster Tail Rapids, Tannery Rapids, Elevator Shaft, Mixmaster Rapids
Negro Creek, Lewis County, Black River, tributary to
Otter Creek, Lewis County, Glenfield, Black River, tributary to Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Otter Creek Waterfalls near Eatonville: Birdbath III Rapids, Boof III Rapids, Bridge Rapid IV, Crumley Dam, Eagles Talon 5.1 Rapid, Eatonville Falls, Ledges III Rapid
Shingle Mill Falls #1 and #2 Southeast of, Shingle Mills Falls
Philomel Creek, Jefferson County, Brownville, Hounsfield Town, Philomel Creek flows into the Black River near Watertown
Brownville Falls, Philomel Creek, Falls on
Pine Creeks, Oneida County
Potash Creek, Lewis County, Carthage, Black River, tributary to
Potash Creek, Oneida County
Rainbow Creek, Lewis County, Lowville, Black River, tributary to
Roaring Brook, Lewis County, Glenfield, Black River, tributary to
Brokeback Gorge Falls #1-6, Roaring Brook Falls,Martinsburg Falls,Roaring Brook Falls #1 & #2 Martinsburg, Roaring Brook Lower Falls #1-5, Roaring Brook, Falls on (Glendale Rd), Whittaker Falls, Lower, Middle, Upper
South Branch Black River
Stillwater Reservoir, Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Stony Creek, Lewis County, Carthage, Denmark Twn, Black River, tributary to
Sugar River, Oneida County, Black River, tributary to, Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Swiss Creek, Lewis County, Carthage, Black River, tributary to
Trout Creek, Jefferson County, Black River, Le Ray town, (Black River tributary), Trout Creek flows into the Black River near Dexter
Trout Brook Falls
Twin Lakes Stream
Whetstone Creek, Lewis County, Glenfield, Black River, tributary to
Whetstone Gulf Falls, Swans Falls, Whetstone Creek Falls
Woodhull Creek, Oneida County
Yellow Creek, Number Four, Subwatersheds of the Black River Watershed
Jefferson County on the Black River
Inner City Strife, Knifes Edge, Black River Dam and Falls, Kamargo Dam/Poors Island, Black River Dam and Falls, Lefebvre Mill Dam, Black River Dam and Falls, Seawalls Island, Black River Falls, Black River falls on, Black River Falls, Lower, Black River Power Dam and Falls, Black River Recreation Trail (falls across from), Black River Village Falls, Black River, Falls on, Carthage, Black River, Falls on, Deferiet, Black River, Falls on, Felt Mills, Black River, Falls on, Herrings, Dexter Falls, Diamond Island Dam Falls, Glen Park Falls, Great Bend, Falls in, Sewalls Island Falls and Dam, Waterworks Park, Delano Falls Dam, Long Falls Park, Carthage State Dam, Long Falls Park, Long Falls Dam, Long Falls Park, Spicer Dam (Big), Long Falls Park, Tannery Island Dam, Long Falls Park, West End Dam
Lewis County on the Black River
Denley Dam and Falls,
Lyons Falls, Port Leyden Falls, Rock Island Dam And Falls, Johnston Falls Dam