The Mohawk River begins and ends as fly-fishing water.
At its beginning, where it gathers at the foot of the Tug Hill Plateau, it’s a small, cool, trout stream with wild browns, and it ends as a vast, shallow plain of riffles, holes and falls below Cohoes Falls, loaded with smallmouth bass and carp, just before its confluence with the Hudson.
Its two main tributaries — and the Mohawk would be puny without them — are extraordinary streams rising in regions that are synonymous with trout fishing: West Canada Creek, draining the southwestern slope of the Adirondacks, and Schoharie Creek, flowing northward from the Catskills’ tallest peaks.
And the Mohawk is the last stop for many little brooks chattering past the meadows of dairy farms and through culverts under 18th century factories, which in their headwaters still harbor the precious and irreplaceable wild brookie.
Many experts and advocates will gather to sing the Mohawk’s praises Friday when the Mohawk Watershed Group at Union College holds the first symposium to examine the physical aspects of the river and its many headwaters. They’ll also be talking about the tough fights that must be fought to make sure science and environmental preservation prevail over politics and business in the competition for natural resources.
The West Canada Riverkeepers will be there, and they’ll have potentially good news to discuss involving the Mohawk Valley Water Authority’s attempt to more than double the amount of water it siphons away from West Canada Creek every day. The Riverkeepers were formed in late 2007, after reckless withdrawals by the Water Authority and especially the state Canal Corp. nearly wiped out the creek. They have sought to become a party to the court battle over the creek’s water, and now the judge in the case, over the Water Authority’s objections, has adjourned the trial indefinitely to consider it.
Also presenting at the symposium will be Dam Concerned Citizens Inc., a citizens’ group that stakes out positions on a number of issues relating to safety and ecology on the Schoharie — including the need for New York City to right an 80-year-old wrong and restore the flow of the creek downstream of Schoharie Reservoir, creating a new stretch of trout water.
There will be a presentation by the Environmental Study Team, an organization of teenagers based at the Schoharie River Center in Burtonsville which has been celebrated by the National Wildlife Federation for things like rapid bio-assessments, stream monitoring and clean-up projects along the Schoharie and its tributaries.
Other symposium participants will discuss matters like the chronic ice jams that flood the Stockade, and fisheries, aquatic habitats, groundwater, etc. There will even be a guest appearance by a team that studied the Little Chazy River way up on the northern side of the Adirondacks.
And wrapping it all up will be Robert H. Boyle, the big-time sportswriter and pioneering environmentalist who helped erase the Hudson’s reputation for pollution and is now in the trenches fighting for the West Canada.
Boyle does righteous outrage as well as anybody ever has, and he does the homework to back it up. His keynote address at the symposium banquet at Union Friday night will be titled, “Bums and Drums Along the Mohawk.”
It’s a great river and a great watershed, with delights that a fly-fisher could spend a lifetime discovering, and it’s greatly encouraging to see it being taken seriously by so many capable people.
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