Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletOctober 20, 2019

Earth Concerns News

Committee Urges Us To Become Familiar with Our Area by Sister Lin Neil, CSJ

As you know the Home/Land Committee has been bringing water issues to you for the last year. Now, some of you may be thinking AEnough already with the water issues! Sometimes it might seem that we are beating a drum, and it=s getting monotonous. Nevertheless, advertisers say that when you really want to get a message across, you need to say it at least 25 times; so we are only half way there! Considering the fact that water is so critical to life and that 1 billion people are suffering from being deprived of clean water, it=s imperative that we convince people of the importance of the message.

Another water related issue if the following one. Do you know your place and the importance of the waters that flow through it? Have you met your watershed? Are you familiar with the species in this ecosystem? Knowing your place is really vital in helping you to enjoy, protect and conserve the watershed in which you live.

Those of us who live in the Albany/Latham/Troy area live in the Hudson-Mohawk Lowlands. The Hudson River is the dominant body of water in the Hudson River watershed. The Hudson is about 330 miles in length. The area of land drained by the river and its tributaries is 13,390 square miles! The Mohicans of Henry Hudson=s day called the Hudson, Muhheakantuck, Athe river that flows two ways@ or translated also, Agreat waters constantly in motion.@ This native name reflects the fact that the current changes direction four times daily as ocean tides flow upriver to the dam at Troy. This dam marks the halfway journey of the river in its run to the Atlantic. The river Achanges its identity after Troy@ where it becomes Muhheakantuk. From Troy south, it is a tidal estuary, a salt-water and fresh-water mix. It is salty by the time it reaches Newburg, 60 miles from New York City. (Source: Hudson River Watershed Association)

The highest source of the Hudson is Lake Tear of the Clouds which sparkles on the shoulder of Mt. Marcy, high in the Adirondacks. One of our famous Adirondack explorers, Verplanck Colvin described the lake as a Aminute, unpretending tear-of-the-clouds, as it were, a lonely pool shivering in the breezes of the mountains and sending its limpid surplus through Feldspar Brook to the Opalescent River, the wellspring of the Hudson.@ The water from Lake Tear flows into Feldspar Brook, then into Opalescent River, Flowed Land Lake and Calamity Brook before it joins the main body of the Hudson below Henderson Lake outlet. The River becomes the Hudson as it flows from the Henderson Lake. It has been one of the great joys of my life to climb Marcy, to see Lake Tear shinning like a lonely diamond on the shoulder of the mountain and to visit the Hudson as it courses, unfettered by dams and human distractions, through the Adirondacks!

The Hudson becomes another river when it leaves the Adirondacks and approaches Fort Edward which is its head of navigation. Locks and dams change the river into a 40-mile chain of sluggish lakes. Here, it is very different from its rushing Adirondack character. The river continues to Manhattan as an estuary, an arm of the sea. Other rivers in the Hudson Valley watershed are the Mohawk River, Lisha Kill, Shakers Creek, Patroon Creek, Normanskill, Krum Kill and Stony Creek. The estuary is home to more than 200 species of fish. In our area these include shad, sunfish, bass, crappies, catfish, bullheads and the endangered shortnosed sturgeon. The bivalves include freshwater clams and mussels like the pearly mussel and the zebra mussel, an invasive species that=s causing mayhem in the watershed. Green frogs, bullfrogs, spring peepers and salamanders weigh in for the amphibians of the area. Reptiles include snapping turtles, painted turtles, northern water snake and the garter snake.

Birds which live in the watershed are mallards, black ducks, wood ducks, common and red-breasted mergansers, the Canada goose and the non-native mute swan. Killdeer, solitary sandpipers, spotted sandpipers and green and blue herons may be found here also. I have observed red-wing blackbirds, yellow warblers, swamp sparrows, marsh wrens, herring gulls, belted kingfishers, osprey and yes, once, a bald eagle. The thrill of this sighting has lasted a long time. Lately, there are more eagles on the river, and I continue to look for them every winter. The rodents of the river valley include the white-footed mouse, meadow vole, Norway rat, short-tail shrew, gray squirrels, muskrat, and beaver. Fox, raccoon, otter, mink and coyotes may be found here too.

            I confess that until I had to write my environmental autobiography for a course on the Concepts of Earth Literacy at St. Mary-of -the- Woods College, I didn=t know much about the Hudson, nor did I have the vaguest idea about a watershed. Now, the river is very personal to me, and I am more aware of all that it does for us and what we need to do to keep it healthy.


(October 2006)