Mohawk River

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Mohawk River
2020 Cohoes Falls 1.jpg
Cohoes Falls, near the eastern end of the Mohawk River in Cohoes, New York
Hudson River watershed map showing the Mohawk River
EtymologyNamed for Mohawk Nation
Native nameTenonanatche
CountryUnited States
State New York
Regions Central New York, Capital Region
Counties Oneida, Herkimer, Montgomery, Schenectady, Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga,
Cities Rome, Utica, Little Falls, Amsterdam, Schenectady, Cohoes
Physical characteristics
Source East Branch Mohawk River
  locationS of Mohawk Hill
  coordinates 43°30′51″N75°28′02″W / 43.5142362°N 75.4671217°W / 43.5142362; -75.4671217 [1]
2nd source West Branch Mohawk River
  locationW of West Branch
  coordinates 43°22′12″N75°30′29″W / 43.3700696°N 75.5079556°W / 43.3700696; -75.5079556 [2]
Source confluence 
  locationE of West Branch
  coordinates 43°22′16″N75°28′6″W / 43.37111°N 75.46833°W / 43.37111; -75.46833 [3]
  elevation932 ft (284 m) [1] [2]
Mouth Hudson River
Border of Albany County, Saratoga County, and Rensselaer County, New York
42°45′39″N73°41′13″W / 42.76083°N 73.68694°W / 42.76083; -73.68694 Coordinates: 42°45′39″N73°41′13″W / 42.76083°N 73.68694°W / 42.76083; -73.68694 [3]
10 ft (3.0 m) [4]
Length149 mi (240 km) [5]
Basin size3,460 sq mi (9,000 km2) [6]
  locationBelow Delta Dam
  minimum15 cu ft/s (0.42 m3/s) [7]
  maximum8,560 cu ft/s (242 m3/s)
  location Cohoes [8]
  average5,908 cu ft/s (167.3 m3/s) [8]
  minimum6 cu ft/s (0.17 m3/s) [9]
  maximum200,000 cu ft/s (5,700 m3/s) [9]
Basin features
River system Hudson River
  left Lansing Kill, West Canada Creek,
East Canada Creek, Caroga Creek,
North Chuctanunda Creek, Alplaus Kill
  right Oriskany Creek, Schoharie Creek,
Otsquago Creek, Canajoharie Creek,
Plotter Kill
Waterfalls Cohoes Falls

The Mohawk River is a 149-mile-long (240 km) [5] river in the U.S. state of New York. It is the largest tributary of the Hudson River. The Mohawk flows into the Hudson in Cohoes, New York, a few miles north of the city of Albany. [10] The river is named for the Mohawk Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy. It is a major waterway in north-central New York. The largest tributary, the Schoharie Creek, accounts for over one quarter (26.83%) of the Mohawk River's watershed. Another main tributary is the West Canada Creek, which makes up for 16.33% of the Mohawk's watershed.



The river's source is at the confluence of the West Branch and East Branch in north-central Oneida County. It begins flowing generally southeastward towards the Hamlet of Hillside, first receiving Blue Brook then McMullen Brook and Haynes Brook. In Hillside is the confluence of Lansing Kill, after which it flows towards the Hamlet of North Western receiving Stringer Brook along the way. After North Western it receives Tannery Brook then Wells Creek in the Hamlet of Frenchville. At Frenchville it curves to the southwest and heads toward the Hamlet of Westernville receiving Deans Gulf along the way. In Westernville it enters Delta Reservoir. After exiting the reservoir it heads south toward the City of Rome receiving Hurlbut Glen Brook and passing the Rome Fish Hatchery along the way. On the south side of the City it enters the Erie Canal and begins to flow east.

Mohawk River at confluence of South Chuctanunda Creek 2020 Confluence of South Chuctanunda Creek and Lock E11 from Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook.jpg
Mohawk River at confluence of South Chuctanunda Creek

After Rome the river flows generally east through the Mohawk Valley, passing by the cities of Utica, Little Falls, Canajoharie, Amsterdam, and Schenectady before entering the Hudson River at Cohoes, just north of Albany.


The river and its supporting canal, the Erie Canal, connect the Hudson River and port of New York with the Great Lakes at Buffalo, New York. [11] The lower part of the Mohawk River has five permanent dams, nine movable dams (seasonal), and five active hydropower plants. [12]

Schoharie Creek and West Canada Creek are the principal tributaries of the Mohawk River. Both of these tributaries have several significant dams including the Hinckley Dam on the West Canada and the Gilboa Dam on the upper reaches of Schoharie Creek. The Gilboa Dam, which was completed in 1926 as part of the New York City water supply system, is the subject of an active and aggressive rehabilitation project. [13]


As the Laurentian Glacier retreated, it blocked the outflow of Glacial Lake Iroquois. Instead of flowing down the St Lawrence Valley it flowed down the Mohawk River. 19th century estimate of the boundaries of Lake Iroquois.jpg
As the Laurentian Glacier retreated, it blocked the outflow of Glacial Lake Iroquois. Instead of flowing down the St Lawrence Valley it flowed down the Mohawk River.

The Mohawk watershed drains a large section of the Catskill Mountains, the Mohawk Valley proper, and a section of the southern Adirondack Mountains. All three regions have distinct bedrock geology, and the underlying rocks become progressively younger to the south. [14] Overall, this part of New York is represented by lower Paleozoic sedimentary rocks that unconformably overlie the Grenville-aged (Proterozoic, here about 1.1 billion years old) metamorphic rocks of the Adirondacks. [15] In the watershed, these rocks are only significant in the headwaters of the West Canada Creek. Much of the main trunk of the Mohawk River sits in Cambro-Ordovician carbonates (limestone) and Middle Ordovician sandstones and shales. [16] The southern tributaries (Catskill Mountains) are underlain by a thin sequence of Devonian limestones that are overlain by a thick sequence of sandstones and shale of the Catskill Delta, which is also Devonian in age. [17]

During the Pleistocene (c. 1.8 to 0.01 mya), the watershed was extensively modified by continental glaciation. As a result of glacial scour and deposition, the surficial deposits in much of the watershed are poorly sorted boulder- and clay-rich glacial till. During deglaciation, several glacial lakes left varved clay deposits. In the final stages of deglaciation, approximately 13,350 years ago, [18] the catastrophic draining of Glacial Lake Iroquois, a pro-glacial lake, was through what would become the modern Mohawk Valley. [19] In this final phase, the enormous discharge of water caused local deep scour features (e.g. the Potholes at Little Falls), and extensive sand and gravel deposition, which is one of the key sources of municipal groundwater including the Scotia Delta, which is also known as the Great Flats Aquifer. [20]


The river is named for the Mohawk Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy. [21]

In the 1700s and before, the Mohawk people, a section of Iroquois Confederacy, were based in the Mohawk Valley, which included the area around the creek. Their territory ranged north to the St. Lawrence River, southern Quebec and eastern Ontario; south to greater New Jersey and into Pennsylvania; eastward to the Green Mountains of Vermont; and westward to the border with the Iroquoian Oneida Nation's traditional homeland territory. [22]


The river has long been important to transportation and migration to the west as a passage through the Appalachian Mountains, between the Catskill Mountains and Allegheny Plateau to the south and the Adirondack Mountains to the north. The Mohawk Valley allowed easier passage than going over the mountains to the north or south of the valley. As a result, it was strategically important during the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War, and a number of important battles were fought here. The fertile Mohawk Valley also attracted early settlers.

The river was the highway of the native Mohawk people. The Mohawk name for the river was Tenonanatche, "a river flowing through a mountain" [23] :p.71 (or Yenonanatche, "going round a mountain").

The first recorded European exploration of the Mohawk was a trip by the Dutchman Harman Meyndertsz van den Bogaert in 1634. He followed the river upstream from Albany for a distance of 100 miles, including all the territory of the Mohawks. [24]

In 1661 Dutch colonists founded the city of Schenectady on the Mohawk River approximately 19 miles (31 km) from Albany. "For fifty years Schenectady was the outpost of civilization and Dutch-English rule in the Mohawk valley." [25]

In 1712 the British, now in control of New York, built Fort Hunter at the confluence of the Mohawk and the Schoharie Creek, about 22 miles (35 km) upriver from Schenectady. Around 600 Palatine Germans were settled along the Mohawk and Schoharie Creek.

In the early nineteenth century water transport was a vital means of transporting both people and goods. A corporation was formed to build the Erie Canal off the Mohawk River to Lake Erie. Its construction simplified and reduced the difficulties of European westward settler migration.

The Mohawk Valley still plays an important role in transportation. Railroads followed the Water Level Route, as did major east–west roads such as Route 5 and Interstate 90.

The Mohawk River Heritage Corridor Commission was created to preserve and promote the natural and historic assets of the Mohawk River. This commission was created by the NY State Legislature in 1997 to improve historic preservation along the river. [26]

Aerial view of the Mohawk River, with Troy and the Hudson River in the foreground, and Schenectady in the background Mohawk River aerial.jpg
Aerial view of the Mohawk River, with Troy and the Hudson River in the foreground, and Schenectady in the background

Flooding and discharge

The Mohawk River has a relatively long record of flooding that has been documented back to settlement in the 17th century. [27] The average volume of water that flows through the Mohawk is about 184 billion cubic feet (5.21 km3) every year. [28] Much of the water flows through the watershed in the spring as snow melts rapidly and enters the tributaries and the main trunk of the river. The maximum average daily flow on the river occurs between late March and early April. For the period between 1917 and 2000, the highest mean daily flow is c. 18,000 cu ft (510 m3) as measured at Cohoes, near the confluence with the Hudson. The lowest mean daily flow of 1,400 cu ft (40 m3) occurs in late August. There is a long record of significant and damaging floods along the entire length of the river. [27]

Because the river and its tributaries typically freeze in the winter, the spring melt is commonly accompanied by ice floes that get stuck and jammed along the main trunk of the river. This annual spring breakup typically occurs in the last few weeks of March, although there are numerous floods that have occurred before or after this time, such as in 2018 when the ice jam breakup happened in late February after record warm weather in the region. [29] These ice jams can cause considerable damage to structures along the riverbanks and on the floodplain. The most severe flood of record on the main trunk of the Mohawk River was the spring breakup flood that occurred from 27 to 28 March 1914. This flood caused a tremendous amount of damage to the infrastructure because it was a spring breakup flood with enormous amounts of ice. Ice jams of some significance occur about every other year. [30] [31]

One major flood on the Mohawk was on 26–29 June 2006, during the Mid-Atlantic United States flood of 2006. Flooding was caused by a stalled frontal system that resulted in 50 to 330 millimeters (2.0 to 13.0 in) of rain across central New York and widespread flooding occurred in the Mohawk, Delaware, and Susquehanna watersheds. Across the state, this event caused over $227 million in damage and resulted in the loss of four lives. This flooding was acute in the upper parts of the Mohawk watershed. [32]

The Mohawk River also saw significant flooding during the weeks between August 21, 2011 and September 5, 2011 due to torrential rains experienced from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Many of the Mohawk Barge Canal locks sustained major damage, especially near Waterford and Rotterdam Junction.

Another major flood was on June 28, 2013. It was caused by heavy rain that had fallen in the region for weeks. On the night of June 27, 2013, the Jordanville area reported that 4 inches of rain fell in one hour. The next day, the Mohawk River flooded the valley, residents were stranded and without power for about a week. There was considerable damage everywhere, especially Mohawk and Fort Plain.

Watershed management

Historically, the Mohawk watershed has lacked a watershed management plan typical in many adjacent basins. In 2010, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released the Mohawk River Basin Action Agenda, which is the first framework for a watershed management plan in this basin. [33] This plan identifies five priority goals for the Mohawk River Basin that are designed to enhance ecosystem health and the vitality of the region. The Action Agenda, developed by the NYS DEC in collaboration with a number of stakeholders in the basin with public input, advocates an ecosystem-based approach to watershed management. [34] In October 2014, Riverkeeper, an environmental advocacy and clean water watchdog organization, announced that they will be expanding the reach of their efforts from the Hudson River to the Mohawk as well. [35]




See also

Related Research Articles

Schoharie County, New York County in New York

Schoharie County is a county in the U.S. state of New York. As of the 2010 census, the population was 32,749, making it the state's fifth-least populous county. The county seat is Schoharie. "Schoharie" comes from a Mohawk word meaning "floating driftwood."

Mohawk Valley region Six-county region in New York, United States

The Mohawk Valley region of the U.S. state of New York is the area surrounding the Mohawk River, sandwiched between the Adirondack Mountains and Catskill Mountains. As of the 2010 United States Census, the region's counties have a combined population of 622,133 people. In addition to the Mohawk River valley, the region contains portions of other major watersheds such as the Susquehanna River.

Hoosic River

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Feather River

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Schoharie Creek

Schoharie Creek is a river in New York that flows north 93 miles (150 km) from the foot of Indian Head Mountain in the Catskills through the Schoharie Valley to the Mohawk River. It is twice impounded north of Prattsville to create New York City's Schoharie Reservoir and the Blenheim-Gilboa Power Project.

Sacandaga River

The Sacandaga River is a 64-mile-long (103 km) river in the northern part of New York in the United States. Its name comes from the Native American Sa-chen-da'-ga, meaning "overflowed lands".

Wallkill River Tributary of Rondout Creek in New York and New Jersey

The Wallkill River, a tributary of the Hudson, drains Lake Mohawk in Sparta, New Jersey, flowing from there generally northeasterly 88.3 miles (142.1 km) to Rondout Creek in New York, just downstream of Sturgeon Pool, near Rosendale, with the combined flows reaching the Hudson at Kingston.

West Canada Creek

The West Canada Creek is a 76-mile-long (122 km) river in upstate New York, United States. West Canada Creek is an important water way in Hamilton, Oneida, and Herkimer counties, draining the south part of the Adirondack Mountains before emptying into the Mohawk River near the Village of Herkimer. The name "Canada" is derived from an Iroquoian word for "village" (Kanata).

Esopus Creek Tributary of the Hudson River in the Catskill region of New York state

Esopus Creek is a 65.4-mile-long (105.3 km) tributary of the Hudson River that drains the east-central Catskill Mountains in the U.S. state of New York. From its source at Winnisook Lake on the slopes of Slide Mountain, the Catskills' highest peak, it flows across Ulster County to the Hudson at Saugerties. Many tributaries extend its watershed into neighboring Greene County and a small portion of Delaware County. Midway along its length, it is impounded at Olive Bridge to create Ashokan Reservoir, the first of several built in the Catskills as part of New York City's water supply system. Its own flow is supplemented 13 miles (21 km) above the reservoir by the Shandaken Tunnel, which carries water from the city's Schoharie Reservoir into the creek.

Fishkill Creek Tributary of the Hudson River in southern Dutchess County, New York

Fishkill Creek is a tributary of the Hudson River in Dutchess County, New York, United States. At 33.5 miles (53.9 km) it is the second longest stream in the county, after Wappinger Creek. It rises in the town of Union Vale and flows generally southwest to a small estuary on the Hudson just south of Beacon. Part of its 193-square-mile (500 km2) watershed is in Putnam County to the south. Sprout Creek, the county's third-longest creek, is its most significant tributary. Whaley and Sylvan lakes and Beacon Reservoir, its largest, deepest and highest lakes, are among the bodies of water within the watershed.

Geography of New York (state)

The geography of New York state varies widely. Most of New York is dominated by farms, forests, rivers, mountains, and lakes. New York's Adirondack Park is larger than any U.S. National Park in the contiguous United States. Niagara Falls, on the Niagara River as it flows from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, is a popular attraction. The Hudson River begins near Lake Tear of the Clouds and flows south through the eastern part of the state without draining lakes George or Champlain. Lake George empties at its north end into Lake Champlain, whose northern end extends into Canada, where it drains into the Richelieu River and then the St. Lawrence. Four of New York City's five boroughs are on the three islands at the mouth of the Hudson River: Manhattan Island, Staten Island, and Brooklyn and Queens on Long Island.

Lake Albany

Glacial Lake Albany was a prehistoric North American proglacial lake that formed during the end of the Wisconsinan glaciation. It existed between 15,000 and 12,600 years ago and was created when meltwater from a retreating glacier, along with water from rivers such as the Iromohawk, became ice dammed in the Hudson Valley. Organic materials in Lake Albany deposits have been carbon dated to approximately 11,700 years ago. The lake spanned approximately 160 miles (260 km) from present-day Newburgh to Glens Falls.

Normans Kill

The Normans Kill is a 45.4-mile-long (73.1 km) creek in New York's Capital District located in Schenectady and Albany counties. It flows southeasterly from its source in the town of Duanesburg near Delanson to its mouth at the Hudson River in the town of Bethlehem. In the town of Guilderland, the stream is dammed to create the Watervliet Reservoir, a drinking water source for the city of Watervliet and the Town of Guilderland. A one megawatt hydrolectric plant at the dam provides power to pump water to the filtration plant.

Sparkill Creek

Sparkill Creek, is a tributary of the Hudson River in Rockland County, New York and Bergen County, New Jersey in the United States. It flows through the Sparkill Gap in the Hudson Palisades, which was created by a fault line which provided the only sea-level break in the Palisades.

Breakneck Brook

Breakneck Brook, sometimes Breakneck Valley Brook, is a 1.7-mile-long (2.8 km) tributary of the Hudson River located entirely in the Putnam County town of Philipstown, New York, United States. It rises at Surprise Lake and flows southwest towards the Hudson from there, mostly through Hudson Highlands State Park. The name comes from Breakneck Ridge to its north.

Butternut Creek (Limestone Creek tributary)

Butternut Creek is a stream in the greater Syracuse, New York area and a tributary of Limestone Creek, part of the Oneida Lake watershed. The creek is about 16 miles (26 km) long.

Fulmer Creek Tributary of the Mohawk River

Fulmer Creek is an 11.5-mile-long (18.5 km) river that flows into the Mohawk River in Mohawk, New York. The creek derives its name from the "Fulmer" family, who bought land through the Burnetsfield patent of 1725, in which lands on the present village site were granted out.

East Kill

East Kill, a 16-mile-long (26 km) tributary of Schoharie Creek, flows across the town of Jewett, New York, United States, from its source on Stoppel Point. Ultimately its waters reach the Hudson River via the Mohawk. Since it drains into the Schoharie upstream of Schoharie Reservoir, it is part of the New York City water supply system. East Kill drains the southern slopes of the Blackhead Mountains, which include Thomas Cole Mountain, Black Dome, and Blackhead Mountain, the fourth-, third-, and fifth-highest peaks in the Catskills, respectively.

West Kill Tributary of the Schoharie Creek in Greene County, New York

The West Kill, an 11-mile-long (18 km) tributary of Schoharie Creek, flows through the town of Lexington, New York, United States, from its source on Hunter Mountain, the second-highest peak of the Catskill Mountains. Ultimately its waters reach the Hudson River via the Mohawk. Since it drains into the Schoharie upstream of Schoharie Reservoir, it is part of the New York City water supply system. It lends its name to both a mountain to its south and a small town midway along its length.

Batavia Kill (Schoharie Creek tributary)

Batavia Kill is a 21-mile-long (34 km) tributary of Schoharie Creek, that flows across the towns of Windham, Ashland and Prattsville in the U.S. state of New York. Its waters reach the Hudson River via Schoharie Creek and the Mohawk River. Since it drains into the Schoharie upstream of Schoharie Reservoir, it is part of the New York City water supply system. From the source to Maplecrest, Batavia Kill drains the northern slopes of the Blackhead Mountains, which include Thomas Cole Mountain, Black Dome, and Blackhead Mountain, the fourth-, third-, and fifth-highest peaks in the Catskills, respectively.


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