Scribas Creek Channel Alignment History Prepared by: Philip Lord, Jr. New York State Museum March 19 - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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Scribas Creek Channel Alignment History Prepared by: Philip Lord, Jr. New York State Museum March 19


Channel Alignment History. Prepared by: Philip Lord, Jr. New York State Museum. March 1998. A history panel being created for the Constantia DEC Hatchery will ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Scribas Creek Channel Alignment History Prepared by: Philip Lord, Jr. New York State Museum March 19

Scribas Creek Channel Alignment
HistoryPrepared by Philip Lord, Jr.New York
State MuseumMarch 1998
A history panel being created for the Constantia
DEC Hatchery will include a 1797 map of the area
with overlays of modern field conditions. In
order to position the alignment of the present
stream accurately on the 200 year old map, it was
necessary to correctly relocate the 1790s
alignments relative to the modern landscape,
using other historic maps, historic air
photographs and field survey.
Map of Rotterdam (now Constantia) in Scriba
Papers, c.1797 This is the map to be used on the
history panel. Although some of the street plan
is projected as it might one day look, the stream
alignment, mills, houses and main road George
Street, now Rte. 49 are accurately drawn. The
reversed S meandering in the stream no longer
This sketch map from the Scriba Papers New York
State Library dates to around 1794 and is
labeled Survey of 3 Lotts on the East Side of
Scribas Creek at Rotterdam Oneida Lake. It shows
in more detail the reverse S meander pattern,
as well as the location of two mills and
associated mill races. Note the position of the
road, which is now on the alignment of Rte. 49
east of the creek.
The first step was to try and match the more
detailed Scriba sketch map of the meanders
(redrawn as an overlay, above) to the 1797 map of
Rotterdam. Both documents had north arrows and
both revealed the same reverse S meander
pattern in the creek. But it was not possible to
match them entirely. The mills shown on the
sketch map are located close to the ones
indicated on the 1797 map.
Finding the True Scale Fortunately the 1797 map
was drawn to scale. The given scale is five
chains to an inch. A chain is 66 feet long, so on
this map, one inch equals 330 feet. The c.1794
sketch map of the meanders of Scriba Creek did
not have a scale. However, we can match this
drawing to the 1797 map (see previous page) and
thus can develop a scale for the 1794 sketch. By
superimposing a scale of feet (rather than
chains) on the 1794 and 1797 maps, we can begin
to relate historic stream features to the modern
landscape. To accomplish this, we needed an image
of the modern landscape, in this case an aerial
photograph, and we needed to apply a scale to
it. Because the features shown on the 18th
century maps no longer show up clearly on the
aerial photographs, another method of matching
scale was devised.
Kibbie Lake Road
Rte. 49
Scale for the aerial photographs was determined
by taking the distance along Rte. 49 between the
bridge over Scriba Creek and the intersection of
Kibbie Lake Road, which was approximately 1,500
feet as indicated on USGS topographic maps of the
area. This then allowed us to matching the
historic maps with the air photos.
Overlay onto 1938 aerial photograph We know from
the scale on the 1797 map that 1,500 north from
the 18th century mouth of Scriba Creek brings you
to the very top of the reverse S meander, about
even with Second Street (see 1797 map). So we
can take the overlay we drew from the c.1794
sketch map of those meanders and lay it onto the
1938 air photo, matching the mouth of the creek
to what would have been the mouth 200 years ago
and matching the roadway to Rte. 49.
Interestingly, that puts the top of the meanders
A right on top of an old meander scar just
south of the RR and wraps the westerly loop of
the meanders B around a plot of lowland of the
same shape west of the present creek.
The Blow-out In a classic stream evolution
pattern, Scribas Creek appears to have burst
through the 18th century double curved meander
pattern with a
straight-line flood that cross-cut both loops
of the previous meander. This blow-out was
completed in 1906,according to local records, but
part of the transition may have already occurred
earlier. It appears that the mill races, which
cut across the loops of the meander to provide
power to the two mills, provided the channels for
the course of the blow-out, which seeks the path
of least resistance. Look at the 1794 next
slide sketch to see how these mill races may
have facilitated this blow-out and cut-off that
produced the modern alignment.
Path of Least Resistance The 1794 sketch map of
Scribas Creek shows the reverse S meanders and
two mills, each located at the downstream side of
the neck of a meander. This is a classic water
power set-up, for the power transmitted to the
mills water wheel depended on the drop or fall
in the waterway. By cutting the headrace across a
meander neck, the millwright created the maximum
fall with the shortest race. In normal operation,
the old channel of the stream served as an
overflow or waste when the race was shut, or
when excess water came down the system. However,
in flood stage, these raceways provided a weak
point in the system, and offered the powerful
freshet a low point to run into, thus cutting a
new channel that by-passed the original
meandering of the natural stream.
Illustration at left taken from Lord, Philip L.
Jr. Mills on the Tsatsawassa Documenting Early
Water-Powered Industry in Rural New York. NY
State Museum, 1983.
Meanders and Chute Cut-offs Any stream develops
slight meandering over time A, and soon these
meanders start cutting toward their points B.
Eventually the meanders become extreme C. This
is the stage of stream evolution shown on the
1797 map of Rotterdam. At this point there is
danger during flood stage of the stream bursting
through and creating a short-cut route, called a
chute or cut-off D. This happens naturally
in many cases. However, in Scribas Creek a
weakness in the channel was created by the
digging of two mill races to bring water to two
millwheels E. In essence, these races
anticipated the chutes which the stream probably
would have developed on its own during the coming
years, as deforestation of the uplands produced
larger and more destructive spring floods. As a
result, the stream developed its present
alignment F.
Comparison of these two views, taken about thirty
years apart, shows the changes evident in the
landscape. A large pond has been created A by
damming and a number of fish ponds are evident
B. Although the main channel C has remaining
constant, the old meander scar at the north end
of what was in 1797 the reverse S meander D
is less evident, the lower leg of that meander
E is shown holding water, and the area of the
lower meander F appears filled and built upon.
The delta at the mouth of the creek G continues
to be expanded.
Results of Field Survey Field inspection
revealed the extent of the elevated plateau areas
surrounding the stream Based on this
topography, which included a small area of
elevated land within the supposed 1797 meander of
the stream - the position of the 18th century
meander pattern could be estimated -
Map of Rotterdam (now Constantia) in Scriba
Papers, c.1797 with modern features indicated,
including the present stream alignments, the
streets in the vicinity, and the hatchery
buildings approximate location.
Composite overlay on 1967 air photo of of 1794
stream alignment and modern stream, road and
hatchery locations.