Friday, November 24, 2023

The Albany 1913 Flood: The Possible Consequences for the Adirondacks ( Part II )

Damage of the 1913 Floods ( Albany / Troy street scenes.)

As a reminder, in Part l, I discussed the record-breaking flooding in the cites of Albany, Troy, and Schenectady on Easter weekend in March of 1913. The heavy rains began on Good Friday and lasted for five days. The excessive rain combined with the spring snow melts from the Adirondacks created massive flooding. The floodwaters destroyed bridges, railroad tracks, power stations, and sewage treatment plants. In Troy, the floods burst gas lines and fires were ignited thought. In addition to the massive flood damage, there was a water pollution problem. Pumping stations were turned into standing reservoirs and water treatment facilities were contaminated with raw sewage and there were several deaths from typhoid fever.

There had been severe flooding in the past, but not to this scale. The State Legislature was finally passed legislation to begin the study of the State’s river systems in order to regulate future flooding. The Water Power and Control Commission had been established and an extensive survey was undertaken to locate sites for containment reservoirs. These proposed containment reservoirs were to hold melt waters back in the spring and have it available for times of fall sacristy.

The Hudson River Regulating district published two documents Water Power and Storage Possibilities of the Hudson River, 1922, and General Plan for the Regulation of the Flow of the Hudson River and Certain of it’s Tributaries, 1923. Due to the extensive number of proposed dams and their impoundments this PART ll dealing with the Upper Hudson River tributaries includes the Cedar River, Indian River, Thirteenth Lake, and the Sacandaga River. This article is a continuation of PART l.

In Part l, I discussed proposals for impoundments in the northern and eastern waters of the Upper Hudson River: The Schroon River, the Boreas River, and the northern Hudson River ( Noted as areas A, B, and C on the map below.) This Part ll is a continuation of that discussion.

Map of Upper Hudson River and Tributaries

Upper Hudson River and Tributaries. (Labeled with Tributaries as below.) Rick Rosen. Photo provided by Mike Prescott.

As in PART I, the river systems ( tributaries ) and the proposed dam sites are in the following sequential order, shown on the map: The Cedar River is labeled ” D ” ( large red letter ) and the proposed dams numbered in black. The Indian River is labeled ” E ” and the accompanying dams are numbered in black, Thirteen Lake is labeled ” F, and the Sacandaga River is labeled ” G , each with there accompanying dams numbered in black.

D ) Cedar River –

22) + The dam at the Cedar River Flow was first a Lumberman‘s Crib dam today known as the Wakely Dam. It was reconstructed in concrete in 1964. Remains of the old crib dam can still be seen from the bridge/dam over the riverbed. However in 1922 there was a plan for a larger 45 ft earthen dam to be constructed about 1/2 mile down river from the present Wakley Dam. This impoundment would have flooded a greater section of the flow. The proposed dam would have been three times the size of the existing impoundment much of which would have been State lands.

23) + Chain Lakes Reservoir was in 1922 with the possibility of two (2) dam sites along the Cedar River and Essex Chain Lakes: a 100 ft dam and/or a second dam of 115 ft about one mile further down the river. According to the Water Power and Storage report ( 1922 ) there were no improved roads within several miles of the site. Access on would be on rough woods roads about seven (7) miles from the village of Indian Lake or equally about seven (7) miles from Newcomb.

24) + The proposed Rock Lake Reservoir was to replace a timber crib dam. The proposed dam was to be a 70 ft earthen dam located about 1 mile below the lumberman’s Crib dam. The impoundment site was entirely wooded and is and raises the level of Rock Lake by 45 feet. It was also entirely on State lands.

25)+ Thirty-Four Marsh ( Lake Durant ) there were two lumberman crib dams one built in the 1850’s and the second in 1880’s . The present dam was built in 1934 – 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps ( CCC – Camp S-115 ). In 1936 the impoundment was renamed Lake Durant.

https://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2022/09/proposed-dams-on-the-upper-hudson-a-look-back.html – more-201529

E ) Indian River –

26) + Indian Lake Dam, the present dam was constructed 1898. But there had been two prior dams, both lumberman’s crib dams, one constructed c. 1845 and another constructed by Finch-Pruyn Co, in the 1860’s. The present stone dam is 33 ft high. The length of Indian Lake in the 1860’s was a little over three miles. But after the 1898 stone dam was constructed the length of Indian Lake grew to about thirteen miles.

Indian Lake - Lumberman's dam and present (1898) masonry and stone dam

Indian Lake – Lumberman’s dam and present (1898) masonry and stone dam. Photo provided by Mike Prescott.

27) + Lake Adirondack – The Lake Adirondack dam originally begun in 1909 was reconstructed Constructed in 1937 – 1938 by the Works Progress Administration ( WPA ). The WPA impoundment was designed as part of a sewage disposal program for the village of Indian Lake.

28) + Lake Abanakee – The original 1922 site was at head of Indian Falls Rapids about a mile down river from the present Lake Adanakee dam. The present dam was constructed in 1951, and in all of my research no one has offered an explanation as to why the Lake Abanakee dam was constructed. I do know, that it was not constructed for rafting. Rafting or “river running’ did not become popular until the 1980’s.

F ) Thirteenth Lake –

29) + The Thirteenth Lake Reservoir was proposed in 1923. The dam was to be constructed at the site of an old lumberman’s crib dam about 100 yards below the outlet of the lake. It was to be an earthen dam 27 ft high. The size of the resultant impoundment would be of minor significance., most of the land belonging to the State.

G ) Sacandaga River –

https://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2019/08/sacandaga-river-history-piseco-lake-pleasant-reservoirs.html – more-156267

30) + The Piseco Lake Reservoir first proposed in 1902, then again in 1908 and again in 1922. The impoundment called for a proposed 76 ft earthen dam on the West Branch of the Sacandaga River at “Little Falls” near the area know as Shaker Place ( early 1800’s ) and the CCC camp ( 1933 ). The dam would be about a mile down stream from the confluence of the Piseco outlet in an area known as the “Arietta Flow”. The resultant impoundment would raise the Piseco Lake level by 16 to 20 ft. “with very little property damage.” The Areitta Flow area would be a rise of about 25 feet. The Areitta Flow would be acquired from the State and was described as having “little or no value”. ( there is a small dam at the outlet of Big Bay this dam which regulated the level of Piseco Lake was previously a lumberman’s crib dam and then a mill site.

31) + The Lake Pleasant Reservoir was proposed in 1895 and 1908 and finally again in 1922. The proposed impoundment on the Middle Branch of the Sacandaga River would have been a 20 to 25 ft masonry dam constructed about 3/4 mile south of the mouth of the Kunjamuk River. The Water level in Lake Pleasant would rise about 10 ft. The community then known as Newton Corners is today the village of Speculator.

32) + The Proposed Elm Lake Reservoir was few miles up the Kunjamuk River Just below Elm Lake. The proposed dam would have been 37 ft high, and stretch upstream 6 miles flooding the area know as the “long Level”.

32B) + Christine Falls Dam was a crib dam constructed for logging on the 1880’s and was NOT part of the dam proposals of 1922 or 1923. It was however rebuilt in the 1960’s and it dose provide hydroelectric power to the town of Speculator.

32C) + Auger Flats – This proposed dam site appears on a 1922 chart in the Water Power and Storage Possibilities of the Hudson River, but there is no description in the text, so one can assume the site was not taken seriously. The site is also known as Auger Falls or Austin Falls.

33) + A dam constructed at the village of Wells created Lake Algonquin or the Wells Reservoir. It first began as a logger’s crib dam. Lake Algonquin does NOT appear on any of proposals from the Water Commission. However in 1924 the citizenry of Wells decided to create their own lake to attract tourism. The Lake Algonquin dam was built in 1925. The Wells crib dam was replaced by a concrete dam in 1954 and converted to produce Hydroelectric power in 1987. It is interesting to note that a dam was never proposed for storage or power but today is a hydroelectric dam.

33B) + The “Barrier Dam, just below “The Forks”, where the Main ( Middle ) branch and the West Branch of the Sacandaga Rivers meet, at the Sacandaga Campsite. The campsite was constructed in the 1920’s but the dam constructed by the CCC ( Civilian Conservation Corps ) in 1937. The “Barrier Dam” was not constructed for flood control or for hydroelectric power, but as a conservation effort to prevent northern pike from entering the West Branch of the Scanadaga River. The dam was reconstructed in the 1960’s.

34) + Construction began on the Sacandaga Reservoir, also proposed in 1895 by George Rafter was begun in 1922 and was completed in 1930. The Conklingville Dam created the Great Sacandaga Lake. This reservoir was planned by Eugene Ashley and Elmer West of the Spier Falls and the proposed Tumblehead Falls fame ( PART l, Schroon River ). Initially the Sacandaga Reservoir was located outside of the Forest Preserve and not subject to the “Forever Wild” clause of the New York State Constitution. However the Adirondack Park was later expanded to encompas the Reservoir. An excellent summery of the creation of the Great Sacandaga Lake is contained in a video. Harnessing Nature: Building the Great Sacandaga, by Peter Pope, the Great Sacandaga Lake Advisory Council, 2017.

35) In the 1923 Hudson River Regulating District report the Stewart Brook Reservoir was only given three descriptive sentences and basically dismissed. Oddly enough the Stewarts Bridge reservoir was constructed in 1951-1952. It is located on the Sacandaga River just bellow the Conklingville Dam. It was constructed almost 40 years after it was first “mentioned” in the Regulating District report. Today, it is a 112 ft. hydroelectric dam that also offers some flood control.

36) + The final dam site mentioned in the 1923 Hudson River Regulating District report is the proposed Diamond Mountain Dam. This site was on the East Branch of the Sacandaga River two miles above the former Hudnut Estate at Fox Lair Fox. The dam site is on the northwestern shoulder of Eleventh Mountain, in a bowl formed by the confluence of Diamond Mountain Brook and the East Branch of the Sacandaga River in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness.

In conclusion, I am personally very happy that these dams for the most part were NOT constructed. There is still spring flooding in the Albany area (specifically in the Stockade District of Schenectady.) But the dams along the Hudson River Watershed (Indian Lake, Wells, Spire Falls, Palmer Falls, Glens Falls, Hudson Falls, the Great Sacandaga Lake ( Conklingville ) and Stewarts Bridge) keep the flood waters in check, most of the time. Our Adirondacks would look a great deal different if all of the proposed dams in the 1922, and 1923 reports had been constructed.

 

Credits:

Photos – 1913 floods, private collection Map – Upper Hudson River and tributaries, Rick Rosen

Photos – Seneca Ray Stoddard and Indian Lake Historical Society

+++++++++++++++++++++++++

Works Consulted:

Aber, Ted and King, Stella, History of Hamilton County, 1965, Great Wilderness Books, Lake Pleasant, NY.

Blanchard, Wayne, Indian Lake Historian, conversations and eMails, June 2023.

Caponara, Jay, President of the Newcomb Sportsman’s Club, phone conversation, November 2023.

Gow, George, R., The Story of a Great Enterprise: The Hudson River Water Power Company, Second Edition, 1903, Glens Falls.

Maston, Zachary, “Database: Dig into the Adirondack Park’s 500+ Dams”, April 26, 2023, Adirondack Explorer.

Nason, Richard ( Dick ), phone conservations & interview, 12, 15, 23, May, 15, 2023.

Podskoch, Martin, Adirondack Civilian Conservation Camps: History, Memories & Legacy of the CCC, 2011, ( 2nd Edition, Podskoch Press, East Hampton, CT.

Prescott, Mike, “Great Schroon Lake: The Dam Plan Would have altered the Park”, Adirondack Life, March / April 2012.

Prescott, Mike, ” New State Lands: Proposed Upper Hudson River Dams,” Adirondack Almanack, July 22, 2013.

Prescott, Mike, ” Hudson River History: The Big Hadley and Glen Dams,” Adirondack Almanack, May 10, 2014.

Prescott, Mike, ” Farrand Benedict: Crossing the Adirondacks,” Adirondack Almanack, June 4, 2016.

Prescott, Mike, ” Farrand Benedict’s Abandoned Newcomb-Long Lake Canal,” Adirondack Almanack, June 11, 2016.

Prescott, Mike, ” Sacandaga River History: Piseco, Lake Pleasant Reservoirs,” Adirondack Almanack, August 20, 2019.

Prescott, Mike, ” The Proposed Great Schroon Lake ( or the Dams that Never Were, ) Adirondack Almanack, July 28, 2021.

Prescott, Mike, ” Proposed Dams on the Upper Hudson: A Look Back [1912]”, Adirondack Almanack, September 21, 2022.

Podskoch, Martin, Adirondack Civilian Conservation Corpd Camps: History, Memories and Legacy of the CCC. 2011, Podskoch Press, East Hampton, Connecticut.

Pope, Peter, Harnessing Nature: Building the Great Sacandaga, Great Sacandaga Lake Advisory Council, video, 1017.

Schaefer, Paul, ed. “The Forest Preserve”, pamphlet, Friends of the Forest Preserve, Schenectady, NY, Sept, 1949.

State of New York, Report on the Water Power and Storage Possibilities of the Hudson River, New York Water Power Commission, Albany, 1922.

State of New York, Hudson River Regulating District: General Plan for the Regulation of the Flow of the Hudson River and Certain of its Tributaries, Warren County Archives, June 27, 1923.

State of New York: Annual Report of the State Engineer and Surveyor, 1895, Wynkoop, Hallenbeck, Crawford Co. , Albany, New York.

State Water Supply Commission, Fourth Annual Report of the State Water Supply Commission, Albany, 1909.

Unterborn, Pat, Town of Wells Historian, phone conversations and emails, 11 November 2023.

Way, Daniel, Dr., conservations and photo “Lumberman’s Dam Indian River.” May 2023.

 

Photo at top: Damage of the 1913 Floods ( Albany / Troy street scenes.) Photo provided by Mike Prescott.

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Mike Prescott is a former history teacher and secondary school principal who found a new retirement avocation in paddling Adirondack waters and exploring their history. Mike is a retired New York State Licensed Guide, and also volunteers with the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, the Raquette River Blueway Corridor, the New York State Trails Council and with the Adirondack Mountain Club. Feel free to contact him at mpresco1@nycap.rr.com




2 Responses

  1. Daniel Way says:

    This is a remarkably detailed and well-researched history of the dam-building industry within the current Blue Line of the Adirondacks. It is hard to imagine the amount of labor and expense that would have been necessary to construct the proposed dams that were never built, but when I look at our dam on Indian Lake in the center of the Adirondack Park, which was built 125 years ago, it reminds me that human ambition is matched by human resourcefulness, both for good and evil. I agree with Mike that the Adirondack dams that exist today enhance the recreational, aesthetic and flood-control properties of the park, but it’s a good thing the dam-builders quit while they were ahead. Thank you, professor Prescott, for your remarkable documentary- I can only imagine the effort it took to research and document this history!

  2. David Gibson says:

    I can only echo Dr. Way’s accolades for Mike Prescott’s detailed histories. Paul Schaefer and his allies who successfully faced and fought off the 3rd wave of dam construction fever beginning in 1945, would also appreciate this history of the 1st and 2nd waves that preceded. Of course, New York City’s thirst was largely quenched by drowning many small Catskill communities, streams and rivers in the early 20th century.

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