The Dams that Never Were

Whitewater Rafting on New York’s Hudson River

The Dams that Never Were

Posted 7/29/16

The Hudson River Gorge is brimming with history. Any guide on the river can regale paddling guests with tales of the logging drives of days long past. With names like Carter, Harris and Giveny, some of the venerable logging river-men have been immortalized by the rapids that bear their names a century hence. It’s a fact that all the rapids on the river were named by those pioneers. Primeval names like Fox Den, Beaver Dams, Osprey’s Nest invoke a history where these labels reflected actual landmarks long since washed away.

After traditional river logging drives were usurped by modern logging trucks there was a push to build dams. Lots of dams. New York State wanted to protect the clean water supply for New York City, as well as protect downstate areas from flooding. There were plans to build dams at Higly Mountain, Panther Mountain, Kettle Mountain, Gooley (Cedar Ledges), Rockwell Falls, Millington Brook, the Glen, Gage Mountain, Huckleberry Mountain, North River and other locations. The dam planned for Kettle Mountain would have created a reservoir that would have inundated most of the whitewater section of the Hudson River Gorge. Suffice it to say that any of these dams would have unalterably changed the landscape of the Adirondacks. And while each dam project was prevented for reasons specific to each site, one force that prevented this onslaught of Dam building was a man named Paul Shaefer.

Schaefer ran the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks. Their goal: To end dam construction within the Blue Line (of the Adirondack Park.) Schaefer and his group were successful in preventing the submersion of the wild whitewater sections of the Hudson River, Indian River, Moose River and the general submersion of large tracts of Adirondack forest. Due to Schaefer’s vigilance, the Smith-Lane Bill of 1969 was passed by the New York State Legislature preventing the building of any new dams north of Hadley, NY.

The map on the left pictures the impact the proposed dams at the Gooley site and Kettle Mountain would have had on the Hudson River Gorge

Rafters of the Upper Hudson Gorge are fond of our Lake Abenaki Dam and the Indian Lake Dam that provide us with whitewater releases all Summer long, but we are also grateful to those who protected the rivers downstream from those dams.

Today as we shoot these remote wild rapids, we can imagine the felling of tall trees and floating logs heading to mills downstream. We are rafting with the bygone spirits of loggers and with conservationists who saved the river for this future that we live in today.


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