Fishkill CreekFishkill Creek

Introduction

General Info

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The Fishkill Creek watershed, located in Dutchess and Putnam Counties, NY drains approximately 193 square miles (123,627 acres) in eleven Dutchess County and three Putnam County municipalities. The main stem of the Fishkill Creek is approximately 38 miles long and begins in the center of Union Vale, flowing southwest, and enters the Hudson River in Beacon. The municipalties within the watershed include (listed by County from upstream to downstream):

Dutchess County

  • Washington
  • Pleasant Valley
  • Unionvale
  • LaGrange
  • Beekman
  • East Fishkill
  • Town of Wappinger
  • Pawling
  • Town of Fishkill
  • Village of Fishkill
  • City of Beacon

Putnam County

  • Kent
  • Philipstown
  • Putnam Valley
The Fishkill Creek is fed by approximately 338 miles of tributaries including the following subwatersheds:
  • Clove Creek
  • Jackson Creek
  • Sprout Creek
  • Whaley Lake Creek
  • Wiccoppe Creek
  • Whortlekill Creek

The watershed has approximately 1,575 acres of lakes and ponds ranging in size from one-tenth of an acre to 252 acres. Waterbodies exceeding 20 acres (smallest to largest) include Beacon Reservoir (Town of Fishkill), Deer Lake, Hillside Lake, Lake Valhalla (Town of Philipstown), Lake Walton, Beaver Lake, Little Whaley Lake, Nuclear Lake, Tyrell Lake, Sylvan Lake and Whaley Lake (see table 11 in the Fishkill Creek Management Plan for a full list).


Land Use History

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Located less than 90 miles from New York City, the watershed has experienced intense growth over the past thirty years. Pre-colonization Dutchess County was predominantly forested, but by the mid-1800s much of the county had been converted to farmland. By 2004 much of the farmland had been converted to residential, commercial, and forested landscapes. Land use in the Fishkill Creek watershed is diverse consisting of agriculture, urban/commercial, extractive, forest, industrial, outdoor recreation, public, residential, transportation, inactive, and water resources as defined using the New York State Land Use and Natural Resources Inventory (LUNR) (Map 2 from the Fishkill Creek Management Plan).

During the years 1990 and 2000 the population of Dutchess County increased by 8%. In 2000, the dominant land use in the Fishkill Creek watershed was forest cover, comprising nearly 50% of the watershed. The second largest category was residential land uses, encompassing approximately 21%. Other land use categories included agriculture (10.7%), water/wetlands (8.9%), outdoor recreation (2.4%), inactive land (1.8%), transportation (1.5%), urban/commercial (1.3%), public/semipublic (1.2%), extractive (0.7%) and industrial (0.6%). In the Dutchess County portion of the watershed, the major land use types were forest cover (45.8%), residential (22.7%) and agriculture (11.8%). In the Putnam County portion of the watershed, the major land use types were forest cover (82.4%), residential (8.5%) and water/wetlands (5.1%). In the Fishkill Creek watershed from 1995 to 2000, the largest percentage increase was in urban land use with a 111 percent change. There were also considerable percent increases over the five-year period in commercial and outdoor recreation land uses with 52 and 46 percent change, respectively. Finally, there was a 21% decrease in the percentage of agricultural land uses.

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Geology

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The Fishkill Creek watershed covers portions of two physiographic regions including the Hudson Highlands and Mid-Hudson Valley. Distinctly different types of bedrock dominate each physiographic region. Most of the watershed covers a portion of the Mid-Hudson Valley and is underlain by sedimentary and meta-sedimentary rocks formed in the early Paleozoic Era (540 million years old to 450 million years old). The remainder of the watershed covers part of the Hudson Highlands where the bedrock is predominantly high temperature and pressure metamorphic gneisses of Pre-Cambrian age (more than 1 billion years old).

The bedrock exposed in the Mid-Hudson Valley was formed as shales, siltstones, sandstones and dolomitic limestones during the Cambrian and Ordovician Periods within the early Paleozoic Era. These rocks include the Everett Schist, Germantown Formation, Nassau Formation and the Taconic Overthrust Sequence units shown in Map 7 from the Fishkill Creek Management Plan. These rocks were modified by metamorphism and a series of large faults during the formation of the Appalachian Mountains. Metamorphism by higher and higher temperatures and pressures can be observed as one travels eastward across Dutchess County. What occurs as shale in western Dutchess County has been modified to the rock phyllite in central Dutchess County and schist in the east. The limestones of western Dutchess County become marbles as you move eastward. Finally, sandstone in the west becomes quartzite in the eastern part of the county. According to the Geologic Map of New York (1986), large thrust faults cross the area and trend roughly northeast-southwest. Enormous masses of rock were displaced along these thrust faults toward the northwest during the formation of the Appalachian Mountains. Bedrock categorized as the “Taconic Overthrust Sequence” was moved great distances along the thrust faults.

The limestones and marbles within the watershed are significant because these rocks may create better aquifers than the shales, which are very common in the Mid-Hudson Valley. These rock units are designated by the Beekmantown, Wappinger and Stockbridge Groups.

The bedrock of the Hudson Highlands is dominated by ancient and very high temperature and pressure metamorphic gneisses with lesser amounts of granite, amphibolite, etc. The gneisses have been sub-divided according to mineralogy (e.g. “biotite-quartz-plagioclase gneiss” and “garnet-biotite-quartz-feldspar gneiss”). Minor amounts of granite, amphibolite and mafic composition igneous rocks also occur in the Hudson Highlands. The Poughquag Quartzite is Cambrian in age and often located along the margins of the Hudson Highlands on topographically high ground.

Elevations in the watershed vary from a high of approximately 1,610 feet above sea level on Mount Beacon, to almost sea level at the confluence of the Fishkill Creek and Hudson River. The average elevation of the watershed is approximately 635 feet above sea level. In the upper reaches of the basin the stream drops slightly more than 200 feet in 10 miles. In the lower portion, where the Fishkill Creek flows over shale and limestone ledges, the gradient is 200 feet in 5 miles. The main stem of the Fishkill Creek ranges from 420 feet above sea level in the four corners region of Union Vale, La Grange, Pleasant Valley, and Washington to sea level at the confluence of the Fishkill Creek and Hudson River.

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Wildlife and Fisheries

The Fishkill Creek watershed contains cold (headwater) and warm (closer to Hudson) water habitats. The following is a list of some of the fish species that can be found throughout the Fishkill Creek watershed.

  • American eel
  • Banded Killifish
  • Blacknose Dace
  • Blue Gill
  • Brook Trout
  • Brown Trout
  • Common Shiner
  • Creek Chub
  • Cutlips Minnow
  • Fallfish
  • Golden Shiner
  • Goldfish
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Longnose Dace
  • Pumpkin Seed
  • Redbreast Sunfish
  • Redfin Pickeral
  • Rock Bass
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Sportfin Shiner
  • Striped Bass
  • Tesselatted Darter
  • White Sucker
  • Yellow Perch

According to the New York State Natural Heritage Program, the list of endangered (imminent threat of extirpation) animal species that occur, or once occurred, in the Fishkill watershed include:

  • Bog Turtle
  • Northern Cricket Frog

The list of threatened (likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future) animal species include:

  • Timber Rattlesnake
  • Blandings Turtle
  • Bald Eagle

Species of special concern that may also inhabit the watershed include:

  • Wood Turtle
  • Spotted Turtle
  • Eastern Box Turtle
  • Jefferson Salamander
  • Marbled Salamander

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Water Quality

Many studies of the Fishkill Creek have been conducted to examine the water quality and overall health of the stream. Based on recent assessments (1991, 1999, and 2001), the main stem of the Fishkill Creek ranges from non-impacted in its upstream reaches, to slightly impacted towards its confluence with the Hudson River (Map 13) (Table 26). Insert Table

Based on previous studies of the Fishkill Creek (1973 through 2001), it seemed the stream water quality improved slightly in the downstream portions of the stream since 1973. These improvements can most likely be attributed to the passage and implementation of the Clean Water Act in 1972, and the subsequent reduction to point (end-of-pipe) source discharges. Upstream of the Rt. 9 bridge (FC 6.9), the Fishkill Creek remained in good ecological health throughout the period of study (1973 through 2001). In this section, the primary impact to biological communities appeared to be the many dams in the creek, but this does not necessarily translate into water quality degradation. Rather, it may be an indicator of habitat degradation.

In the following text, assessment site names are based on river mileage from the Fishkill Creeks confluence with the Hudson River.

Throughout this section the water quality information from the studies will be separated into chemical, biological or physical data.

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Water Quality - Chemical

Nitrate

Nitrate in excessive amounts can accelerate eutrophication of surface waters, and can present a human health concern in drinking water. Any water that contains nitrate concentrations of 44 mg/L (equivalent to 10 mg/L nitrate-N for EPA and NYSDOH standards) or higher has the potential to cause methemoglobinemia, or "blue baby" disease in children, and the excess nitrate can indicate serious residential or agricultural contaminants. Although the human health standard for nitrate consumption has little correlation with stream health, high levels of nitrate in both surface and groundwater usually indicate widespread nonpoint source pollution. Figures 10 and 11 of the Fishkill Creek Watershed Management Plan provide a general idea of total nitrogen and nitrate-N concentrations in the Fishkill Creek basin during low-flow in the summer of 2001. Based upon average concentrations found in water samples from 85 sites across the United States, in relatively undeveloped watersheds the median concentrations of nitrate-N and total nitrogen were 0.087 and 0.26 mg/L respectively. However, due to present and past land uses, the undeveloped watershed concentrations (below 0.26 mg/L) of total nitrogen rarely occur in Dutchess County in 2004. Major sources of nitrate (the most mobile form of nitrogen) in streams are municipal and industrial wastewater discharges and agricultural and urban runoff.

Phosphorus

Based upon the average concentrations found in water samples from 85 sites across the United States in relatively undeveloped watersheds, the median concentrations of total phosphorus and orthophosphate as P were 0.022 and 0.010 mg/L respectively. In general, any concentration over 0.05 mg/L of orthophosphate will likely have an impact on surface waters. However, in many streams and lakes concentrations of PO4 as low as 0.01 mg/L can have a significant impact on water resources by causing a proliferation of aquatic vegetation and phytoplankton. In order to control eutrophication, the USEPA recommended limiting phosphate concentrations to 0.05 mg/L in waters that drain to lakes and ponds, and 0.1 mg/L in free flowing rivers and streams. Figures 12 and 13 of the Fishkill Creek Watershed Management Plan provide an idea of low flow summer concentrations of phosphorus from the Fishkill Creek basin (samples taken in 2001).

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Water Quality - Biological

Aquatic Community Health

In July of 1973, fifteen stations in the main stem of the Fishkill Creek were assessed. Based on the macroinvertebrate community, the water quality of the Fishkill Creek from river mile 23.4 ( 200 feet downstream of Greenhaven Rd. bridge) to river mile 12.8 (1000 feet downstream of the Palon Rd. bridge) was found to be in good condition (non-impacted). River mile 9.7 (end of McGrath Terrace road) through river mile 6.5 (2500 feet downstream of Rt. 9 bridge) demonstrated satisfactory (slightly impacted) water quality. In this section, nutrient enrichment and the resulting eutrophication were apparent, and drastically altered the biological community towards an unbalanced population. Water quality at river mile 3 (250 feet downstream of Beacon Dye and Texaco Research facility) through river mile 2.7 (30 feet downstream of Bridge street) appeared to have been grossly degraded (severely impacted) by toxic pollutants. However, by river mile 1.8 (300 feet downstream of the East Main St. bridge in Beacon) water quality appeared to have improved to satisfactory (slightly impacted). Neuderfer (1977) identified several point sources of pollution to the Fishkill Creek including the Greenhaven State Prison, Dutchess Park and Merrit Brooklands sewer treatment plants, Texaco Research waste treatment effluent, discharges from Beacon and Braendly Dye, and Bobrich Products Company.

In conclusion, based on the 1973 study, the Fishkill Creek main stem was non-to-slightly impacted by siltation and nutrient enrichment in it upper reaches through river mile 6.5. Below river mile 6.5, toxic pollutants were drastically impacting water quality, but the creek’s communities seemed to recover by river mile 1.8 (300 feet downstream of East Main Street bridge in Beacon).

Approximately a decade after the 1973 study, researchers again visited the Fishkill Creek for an overall assessment of stream health. In 1985, Schmidt and Kiviat found the Fishkill Creek system in good health. However, the main stem of the Fishkill Creek, from Hopewell Junction to the confluence with the Hudson River, was slightly-to-moderately impacted from municipal and industrial discharges, dams and channelization. Additionally, in 1988, a separate research group found the Fishkill Creek in Beacon and downstream of the Route 9 bridge in the Town of Fishkill to contain poor macroinvertebrate community representation. The suspected causes for the poor communities varied from industrial and organic (sewage) pollutants in Beacon, to channelization and the resulting degraded habitat that accompanied the construction of the Rt. 9 bridge (FC 6.9). Communities at Hopewell Junction (~FC 16.4) and upstream of the Route 55 crossing (~FC 25.7), were assessed as moderately impacted.

In 1985, the Fishkill Creek, upstream of approximately river mile 10.3 (1.4 miles upstream of Rte. 52 bridge) had healthy fish populations and contained substantial sport fish populations (trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass, and rock bass). Near river mile 10.3 and in Beacon, fish populations were dominated by warmwater and pollution tolerant fish species. Finally, the Fishkill Creek demonstrated a prominent upstream to downstream pollution gradient.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Stream Biomonitoring Unit assessed the Fishkill Creek at four sites in 1991. Sites ranged from approximately river mile 26 (Clove Valley) to river mile 1.4 (Beacon). Based on macroinvertebrate community analysis, FC 26 (Clove Valley), FC 6.9 (Route 9), and FC 1.4 (Beacon) all rated as slightly impacted, and FC 16.9 rated as non-impacted. The FC 26 community was most likely affected by an upstream dam, and did not necessarily indicate degraded water quality. Communities at FC 6.9 and FC 1.4 showed indications that sewage and heavy metal pollutants may have been negatively affecting the macroinvertebrate community.

The final study in the Fishkill Creek was conducted in 2001 by researchers from the State University of New York, Environmental School of Forestry and the Dutchess County EMC. Results indicated a similar upstream (non-to-slightly impacted) to downstream (slightly-to-moderately impacted) gradient of stream health that was present since the 1973 study. However, Stainbrook (2004) also suggested that the health of the Fishkill Creek improved slightly from 1988 to 2001.

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Public Access Sites

Public Access Sites to Water Resources in Dutchess County

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Public access sites in the Fishkill Creek watershed
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Indicates a public access site on the Fishkill Creek

Public access sites in nearby watersheds
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Indicates a public access point to the Hudson River or a Hudson Direct drainage stream
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Indicates a public access site on the Fall Kill
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Indicates a public access site on the Casperkill
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Indicates a public access site on the Wappinger or a tributary to the Wappinger
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Indicates a public access site on the Ten Mile River or a tributary to the Ten Mile River
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Indicates a public access site for the Roeliff Jansen Kill

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Documents and Reports

 

Watersheds

Events

  • FrOGS Annual Great Swamp Celebration

    Oct. 25-26

    Date: Saturday, October 25, 11:00-5:00pm and Sundary, October 26, 12:00-4:00pm
    Location: Thomas Memorial Center, Christ Church, 17 Church Road, Pawling, NY 12564

    The Celebration features educational events centered on the Great Swamp, including live Birds of Prey, a Macro-Invertebrate table and Turtle Monitoring. The celebration blends Art and Science as students from 12 schools in 5 school districts in the harlem Valley present their work re "Common Creatures Found in the Swamp" There will also be a juried photography exhibit of the Great Swamp.

    Read more...