Part 9- Oswego County and waterfalls on the the tributaries to Salmon River and the Mad River
Towns that are within the Tug Hill Region
Albion, Amboy, Boylston, Constantia, Hastings, Orwell, Parish, Redfield, West Monroe, Williamstown
Region: Central Region
NYS Tourism Region: Thousand Island-Seaway
NYDEC Region: Central New York
Tributaries to Salmon River and the Mad River
Coverage of the waterfalls on tributaries within the Tug Hill Region
The county name is from a Mohawk language word meaning “the outpouring”, referring to the mouth of the Oswego River. The Salmon River derives its name from the landlocked Atlantic salmon which were of great importance to Native Americans and early settlers of the region. However, these native salmon were extirpated from the river by 1872 and from Lake Ontario by 1898.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,312 square miles, of which 952 square miles is land and 360 square miles (27%) is water.
Oswego County is in northwestern New York State, just north of Syracuse and northwest of Utica, on the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. Part of the Tug Hill Plateau is in the eastern part of the county and, at 1,550 feet, is the highest point. The Salmon River Falls, a 110-foot waterfall, is a popular sightseeing destination in the northeastern portion of the county.
There are two harbors in the county, Oswego Harbor on the Salmon River. The first major port of call on the Great Lakes is at the mouth of the Oswego River and Port Ontario the Port of Oswego Authority dock.
Selkirk Lighthouse is located at the mouth of the Salmon River in New York. It is one of only four lighthouses in the United States that retains its original bird-cage lantern.
Oswego Harbor West Pierhead Lighthouse is an active aid to navigation located off the coast of Oswego, New York. It was built in 1934 to replace an earlier light constructed in 1880. It stands at the end of a 2,000-foot-long breakwater at mouth of the Oswego River, extending .5 miles out onto Lake Ontario. It is accessible by boat or from land over the abutting breakwater. It is not open to the public. It is owned by the City of Oswego and operated by the United States Coast Guard. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Port of Oswego is the main waterfront area of the City of Oswego in Oswego County, New York. Over the course of its history, the Port of Oswego has been the focus of military conflict and conquest, asite of record trade revenue, and a significant part in the History of American expansion and industrialism. Today the Port of Oswego is a shadow of its once-powerful self but still proves to be useful as trade continues in the central New York region.
The Salmon River is a large river in Upstate New York. From its headwaters in the Tug Hill region, it flows 44 miles westward through two hydroelectric dams and over the 110-foot Salmon River Falls before it empties into eastern Lake Ontario at Port Ontario in Oswego County. The Salmon River watershed drains approximately 280 square miles.
The headwaters of the Salmon River are located in western Lewis County, within the Tug Hill region. The primary upper tributaries of the Salmon River are the North Branch Salmon River (itself fed by the Mad River) and East Branch Salmon River. The river is also a popular location for kayaking and river rafting during parts of the year when water from the Lighthouse Hill Dam is released, with several companies making excursions to the river.
The Salmon River includes several distinct reaches and features between its headwaters and mouth.
Headwaters and upper tributaries
The headwaters of the Salmon River are located in western Lewis County, within New York’s Tug Hill region. The primary upper tributaries of the Salmon River are the North Branch Salmon River (itself fed by the Mad River) and East Branch Salmon River. The river’s upper reaches are heavily forested and sparsely populated, allowing for the water quality of the river to be extremely high.
Salmon River Reservoir
The Salmon River Reservoir, also known as the Redfield Reservoir, is a 6.9-mile-long man-made waterbody in Oswego County. The reservoir was created with the completion of a hydroelectric dam in 1912. It covers an area of 2,660 acres with a maximum depth of 50 feet and has the capacity to hold 56,000 acre feet of water. It is the larger of the Salmon River’s two reservoirs.
Salmon River Falls
The Salmon River Falls is a 110-foot waterfall in Oswego County, located between the Salmon River’s two reservoirs. It is situated within the 112-acre. Salmon River Falls Unique Area, managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The falls and surrounding land was owned by the Niagara Mohawk power company prior to 1993, when ownership was transferred to New York State. The area has since been improved with parking areas, wheelchair-accessible trails, and interpretive kiosks, and is a popular sightseeing destination in the region.
The Lighthouse Hill Reservoir, also known as the Lower Salmon River Reservoir, is located in Oswego County near Altmar, about three miles downstream of the Salmon River Reservoir. The 164-acre reservoir was created with the completion of the Lighthouse Hill Dam in 1930.
The Salmon River’s main stem stretches for 16 miles below the Lighthouse Hill Dam before it reaches the river’s mouth at Lake Ontario, passing through Altmar and Pulaski on the way. The amount of water flowing in the river’s main stem is controlled by the Lighthouse Hill Dam, including summertime recreational releases of water to enhance whitewater rafting opportunities. Two tributaries, Trout Brook and Orwell Brook, enter the river below the dam. A third tributary, Beaverdam Brook, is above the dam.
The Salmon River passes through a region with sedimentary bedrock composed of limestone, shale, siltstone and sandstone. After the uplifting of the Appalachian Plateau approximately 220 million years ago, numerous streams in the area, including the Salmon River and its tributaries, began to cut gorges (locally known as “gulfs”) through the bedrock. The geologically recent Pleistocene glaciations further influenced the landscape approximately 12,000 years ago; the region’s soils in particular are the result of deposits of glacial till from this time. Soils in the Salmon River region are generally stony, acidic, and poorly drained.
Fulton Lock 03 Dam and Falls aka Oswego Falls
This segment does not include other waterfalls in Oswego County, as they have yet to be confirmed in person and to be sure they are of qualifying height requirements. To date we have just the following waterfall locations:
Next week I will be covering all the waterfalls on and along the Black River in the counties of Jefferson, Lewis, Oneida and Oswego.