The Sawkill Creek - The Sawkill Today

The Sawkill Creek

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The Sawkill Today

The Sawkill ravine still offers a refreshing place of natural beauty to those who walk its paths, just as it has for more than 150 years since walking trails were first laid out by the Livingston and Donaldson families. But even as we recall the ravine’s picturesque past, we recognize its increasing significance as wildlife habitat.

The eel ladder pictured here is located just below the early 20th-century concrete dam that contains the lake. The ladder was placed there in 2006 through a joint project of Bard College, Simon’s Rock College, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program. It allows American eels to travel upstream past the dam.

Eels wriggle up the ramp and into a bucket that has stream water flowing through it. Researchers check the bucket every day, measure and tag any eels they find, and then release them above the dam. The rocky crevices and abundant food supply in the Sawkill make the creek an attractive place for the eels, which are born in the Sargasso Sea of the Atlantic Ocean, to spend their adult lives.

Eel populations have dropped precipitously in recent years due to over-fishing and habitat loss. By providing access above the dam, the eel ladder increases the amount of prime habitat available to eels and thus helps support a larger population in the Sawkill than if access were limited to below the dam. In turn, this larger population of mature eels will potentially make the long journey back to the Sargasso Sea and reproduce.

Eel ladder on the Sawkill. Photo: Historic Hudson Valley.

American eel, pre-juvenile 'glass' phase. Photo: Courtesy of Luke Ormand.

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