Niagara Issues - Fish Creek Upper Bank Intake
P. M. Eckel
Res Botanica
Missouri Botanical Garden
October 6, 2003

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Niagara Issues - Fish Creek Upper Bank Intake


Fish Creek, Niagara County, town of Lewiston, flows just above the Niagara Escarpment (south of its rim). It flows westwardly through the Tuscarora Indian Reservation on the east, north of and parallel to the northern boundary  of the Reservoir of the New York State Power Authority (NYPA) and its forebay.  In its western reach, Fish Creek flows westwardly north of Upper Mountain Road. The Creek historically fell over the crest of the Niagara River Gorge near its northern terminus overlooking the Lake Ontario lake plain, north of the Lewiston-Queenston International Bridge.





The close-up below shows Fish Creek flowing westward from the east in the Niagara Falls Country Club. The close-up image indicates the stream is subaerial in its descent over the rim of the Niagara River gorge, but actually the stream is directed into an underground conduit and flows subterraneous under the Robert Moses Parkway, a high-speed thoroughfare that runs north-south, parallel to the rim of the gorge. The Creek debouches subaerially just above the Niagara River surface on the lower bank of the river.




Groundwork would need to be done to identify the ancestral gorge feature that represents the aboriginal, ancient outfall of the Creek. A likely candidate might be a sculpted cove in the face of the gorge wall visible just upstream from the present, channelized discharge, a shallower, less spectacular cousin of the larger, upstream cove called Devil's Hole- the outfall of the buried channel of Bloody Run Creek. Bloody Run is difficult to detect subaerially above the Niagara River gorge, but the natural discharge in the lower talus of Devil's Hole cove is probably part of the drainage of that stream.


The shallower cove, which may perhaps be called the Old Fish Creek Cove, occurs in the gorge wall just upstream from the northern terminus of the Niagara River gorge in Lewiston, New York, on the lake plain, near the southern boundary of Artpark State Park. It is visible on the upper of the two trails (old railroad beds). Its lower bank configuration is buried under shale fill. There is an old stone bridge and conduit at the discharge cove beside the upper trail and once was part of a series of spectacular romantic features of the native landscape as the upper train descended down the gorge face into Lewiston station from a station at what is presently Niagara University. Note that this upper train bed predated the lower bed that ran on the low bank just above the river surface (the Niagara Gorge Belt Line or the Great Gorge Route and International Railway, open in 1895). Note also that old botanical labels indicating plants collected on the railroad bed to Lewiston predate 1895 and refer to the upper bed, or the upper hiking trail, as it is used today.




In its final few hundred yards before descending underground through the gorge wall, Fish Creek flows subaerially through the lovely golf course of the Niagara Falls Country Club. One may visualize the historic creek bed. Identification of the old trees occurring in the golf today course may indicate the aboriginal nature of the forest ecosystem, where Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa), Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum), Red Maple (Acer rubrum) and subdominants Green Ash (Fraxinus pensylvanica) and American Elm (Ulmus Americana) may have occurred. Another forest type, however, may have been situated here, similar to the Niagara University wet oak-hickory woods existing a mile to the east and south of the golf course.



The present bed of Fish Creek is here completely channelized with concrete. It is probable that the creek, as it occurs east of the golf course may have soil banks.




Restoring Fish Creek's ecological function was a topic discussed earlier in the year (2003) at public scoping sessions for relicensing for NYPA. This close-up of the bed of Fish Creek at its terminus would be a major challenge for such a restoration. Not even algae is evident excepting  trace amounts and the water appears unusually clean for such an exposed stream flow.




In this image, the upper end of the underground conduit that receives the stream discharge is visible.








I thank Neil Patterson, Jr., Director, and Rene Rickard, Water Quality Technician, of the Tuscarora Environment Program (Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force) of the Tuscarora Nation, for kindly providing information regarding the identification of the various stream courses in the Lewiston area.


Introductory map USGS, Washington, D.C. (1965) Lewiston, Ont. - N.Y.; NE/4 Niagara Falls 15' Quadrangle.


Note that on this 1965 map image, an active train bed of the New York Central Railway is indicated (a third railroad bed). This rail no longer exists  (2003) except in fragments and in the industrial sidings along Hyde Park in the City of Niagara Falls. The 1965 map shows the bed dividing Niagara University and passing over the NYPA power plant at the western end of the forebay. This old bed may still be seen just east of the Robert Moses Parkway as it descends the north-facing Niagara Escarpment. The old railway continues eastward immediately at the base of the escarpment and parallel to it ("Lewiston Hill").


Images were taken the first week of August, 2003