The Mohawk Indians called it “Kauy-a-hoo-ra,” or Leaping Water. Trenton Falls leaps no more, but it is still a grand site to see. We visited in October, at the height of Upstate’s brilliant autumn season. This area is the property of Brookfield Power, and the location of the hydroelectric power facilities in the Town of Trenton.
When we pulled in the lot, attendants with bright green vests greeted us to take count of our passengers and direct us to parking. The parking lot was very full, even though we’d arrived relatively early, at 10am.
At the entrance to the trails were a few tents. Methodists were having a bake sale in one. In the other, the West Canada Riverkeepers, a new organization to protect the creek, were taking signatures for a petition. I was informed that the Mohawk Valley Water Authority wants to take control of West Canada Creek. Is there no end to this power-grabbing in this county? The media release they passed out was extremely interesting. One section reads:
Hinckley, Black Creek, and the river below Prospect Pond are lower than during the drought of 1964 which has been on record as a more severe drought than what we are in now. So we are left with another question: Where is all the water?
Their website has some stunning pictures. Where indeed is all our water going? Hasn’t Oneida County’s population dropped?
I signed the petition and we continued walking. There were a few mulch trails in the small clump of wooded property at one side. Not too much to see. Some interesting ferns, birch. It was still very nice. The pungent smell of dried Maple leaves filled my nose with delight. Chirping chickadees peppered the cedar trees. We love chickadees, so we paused to enjoy their little antics.
The rock strata is very impressive. It has its own form of beauty. God is a great designer.
A stone dust trail leads visitors up a hillside, alongside the enormous water pipes that have captured the creek’s flow. Every once in a while we heard tapping in the pipes. We questioned one of the attendants about it. He said it was the sound of the water heating up inside the steel pipes, when the sun shines on the metal. The pipes are completely filled with water. The pipes carry the water down the hill and then into a power station bunker, where the rushing water spins a turbine. This turbine can generate enough electricity to power the city of Utica, the attendant said.
Long ago, when the white men figured out how to use the creek’s water for electricity generation, the pipes were made of wood, not steel. We saw old photos of the wooden pipes, and they were amazing! Long planks of wood were connected together (rather like a barrel on its side) and the sections rested on large concrete “ribs.” The wooden sections were long gone, but the concrete ribs remain.
They were such strange-looking things, like the remains of an ancient castle. Scraggly sumac and other wild brush have wrapped their trunks in and around the ribs. The ribs were heavily pitted from a century of rainfall. They just begged us to explore them. We had to resist the temptation; signs blared “For your own safety, do not leave the designated trails.” Scary signs warning of poison ivy also maligned our curiosity.
The walk was pleasant, even if it was so regimentally structured. I suppose it could have been worse– they could have had us visitors all walk lock-step, single file. As it was, the trail was nice, and sometimes strenuous. But the day was very hot– 81 degrees Fahrenheit, more like a July afternoon than October! As we wiped great beads of perspiration from our faces and complained of the heat, a large flock of geese flew overhead in their familiar “v” pattern. They honked away as they made their way southward. As we watched the geese go, we decided we’d better enjoy these last few days of such a late Indian summer. Cabin fever was on its way soon…
The creek is notably dry. New York has had a very dry summer with little rainfall, so the creek barely trickled. It is shocking to remember that just last summer, Upstate suffered three debilitating floods. There was a tremendous amount of water gushing over those rocks. This water was responsible for a good deal of the flooding in the Mohawk Valley downstream.
The Falls is beautiful. Oh on such a hot day we longed to hop into that cool glassy water.
So very beautiful.
When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!
Trenton Falls has a rich history. The story behind Trenton Falls is the typical Leatherstocking homespun, romantic 18th century adventure story. It was a delight to read. Keesler also discusses his own visit to the Falls, and explains the gory details of why the Falls became closed to visitors.
We got to the end of the trail and came to the dam.
The creekbed looked surreal, so dry and bizarre like something out of Planet of the Apes. Piles of crusty sheets of shale are clumped together, as if a giant had shaken his cubes of salt on his stone table. They looked so out of place that we asked an attendant about them.
The attendant told us that these rocks had been moved out of place and down the creek by the powerful waters from last year’s flood. Remarkable! I took photos from a long distance and zoomed in. So those sheets of shale you see are large enough to hold the kids and I comfortably. They are enormous rocks.
I see why Trenton Falls is only open at designated times of the year. The Falls are breathtakingly beautiful, but also dangerous for explorers. I wish we could have walked down to the creek bed and onto those beautiful slabs of shale, but I understand why the power company restricts such access.
Since the creek is no longer “Leaping Water,” I wonder what the Mohawks would call it now?