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Tonawanda Creek

August 3, 2015 - 9:21am
posted by JIM NIGRO in nature, outdoors, full moon, sunrise, Tonawanda Creek.

There's plenty to be said for rising early. In the above photo, rays of sunlight permeate our yard as the sun begins its ascent.

The calm of early morning provides a mirror image on a placid surface.

Mist rises from a stretch of Tonawanda Creek. Regardless the time of day, this is always a nice spot to take photos as little light penetrates the treetop canopy.

Gathering clouds have a filtering effect and cast a pale-orange glow on the horizon.

The full moon looms large immediately after rising...........

but not until the full moon climbs high in the night sky are we bathed in soft lunar light and moon shadows.

March 11, 2015 - 10:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Tonawanda Creek.

Taken this evening at the Tonawanda spillway behind the County Courthouse.

November 25, 2014 - 11:21am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, weather, Tonawanda Creek.

The Tonawanda Creek has reached a minor flood stage of nine feet high and is expected to crest this afternoon at 9.3 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

Photo from about an hour ago at the spillway behind the County Courthouse.

September 7, 2014 - 4:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Tonawanda Creek.

Chris Hausfelder spotted this egret on the Tonawanda a few days ago and was able to snap a couple of pictures of this elusive bird.

July 19, 2014 - 11:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Tonawanda Creek, troop 6069, Boy Scouts.

More than 20 volunteers hauled out 180 pounds of garbage from the Tonawanda Creek this morning under the supervision of Boy Scout Alex Hansen.

The cleanup was the culmination of Alex's Eagle Scout project, which he said took a year to plan and execute.

It required the cooperation of Genesee ARC (who hauled away the garbage for free) and Sloat Tire to pick up the tires that were collected, and Alex had to coordinate the volunteers through the Tonawanda Watershed Committee and Troop 6069.

"The creek over the years has become really polluted with trash," Alex said. "People just throw tires and water heaters and even air conditioners right over the bridges in town. All this stuff gets washed to places, such as Kiwanis Park, and so we have people people cleaning because there's trash everywhere."

The 16-year-old scout said volunteers dispersed to Kiwanis Park, Kibbe Park, behind the courthouse and behind Valu Plaza.

"We think this will make a positive difference for the community because people want to enjoy the creek again," Alex said. "We want to make it a better place for people and wildlife."

May 17, 2014 - 10:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, outdoors, Tonawanda Creek.

The fish weren't biting on the Tonawanda Creek today, but that didn't stop a group of Batavia residents from having fun during an annual fishing derby organized by John Lawrence.

The water was high and swift, which made it hard to even get a nibble, but the anglers, young and older, stuck with it.

Above, Brian Mruczek with is son Lakoda.

Giana Mruczek.

Nick Grasso puts on a show like he's really hooked something big.

September 18, 2013 - 4:43pm
posted by JIM NIGRO in outdoors, Tonawanda Creek, nature, wood ducks, bald eagle.

The sun had barely cleared the horizon when I pulled out of the driveway Tuesday morning. And with the camera case on the seat beside me, I really wasn't sure where I was going. The last thing I expected on a rather chilly morning was a bald eagle perched in a dead tree overlooking Tonawanda Creek.

Nearly an hour earlier, while watching the news and having coffee, I mulled over where I would go. At first I contemplated going either to the swamps, Genesee County Park or dragging the canoe out back and paddling upstream on the Tonawanda. These have all been productive in the past but this morning, for some reason, I opted for something different. But still, I couldn't make up my mind on where to go....so I just got in the truck and drove. There was also a catch....I didn't have great deal of time to kill as I had an appointment at 11 a.m.

The sun was making its way up the eastern horizon when I eased down a grassy bank of the Tonawanda where it flows along Stegman Road north of the Bushville bridge. Despite the bright sun on this morning, far less light penetrates shoreline canopy in this stretch. That would change farther downstream. The rock-studded shoreline is a good indication this is smallmouth territory.

Steam rising off the surface -- a good indication the water was considerably warmer than the chilly 45 degree air.   

Farther downstream is where I came across the bald eagle -- in surroundings more suitable for surveying its domain, scanning the creek and the surrounding area for a meal. Fish, muskrats, rabbits -- when you have a bill and talons that big and sharp, the menu is limitless.

Turning its head nearly 180 degrees enables him to watch his backside and prevent potential prey from slinking past.

Further upstream, blended in among fallen limbs, a trio of wood ducks are oblivious to the threat from above. 

Taking leave of their temporary haven, the woodies wisely head upstream -- toward the cover of the canopy.

July 31, 2013 - 10:53am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Tonawanda Creek.

Information and photos provided by Elizabeth Bentley-Huber.

Boy Scouts Tristan Korzelius, Jake Houseknecht and Ryan Missel installed storm drain markers in the City of Batavia on Saturday as part of an ongoing effort by the Tonawanda Creek Watershed Committee to remind people that what goes down storm drains has a direct impact on the quality of water in the Tonawanda.

A dozen volunteers installed 253 medallions over storm drain inlets throughout the city.

Tonawanda Creek committee members and local volunteers have also installed these markers in the Village of Attica, hamlets of Varysburg, North Java and Johnsonburg. Last year members installed medallions in the City of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda.

If you are interested in joining this effort or have any questions, please contact Elizabeth Bentley-Huber at Genesee County Soil & Water Conservation District at 585-343-2362 or at [email protected].

Kirk Peryea and Lucy Pietrzykowski

Kirk Peryea, Lucy Pietrzykowski, Greg Houseknecht, Jake Houseknecht, Tristan Korzelius, Ryan Missel, Robert Cassatt, Molly Stetz. Absent: James Tuttle, Les Winters, David Winters, Addison Winters. These volunteers installed 253 medallions over storm drains in the City of Batavia on July 27, 2013.

June 15, 2013 - 10:44am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Tonawanda Creek.

A person was rescued from the Tonawanda Creek at 9:30 a.m. in the area of 63 Walnut St., Batavia.

City Fire Department responded to the call and located a semiconscious man in the water who was being held by a bystander.

The victim was removed from the water by firefighters and transported to UMMC by Mercy EMS.

His name or condition has not yet been released.

June 11, 2013 - 8:40am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Native Americans, Tonawanda Creek, Six Nations, Iroquois.

Rick Levins says the Tonawanda Creek is a spiritual place. He's been drawn to it most of his life, he said. For more than 30 years, he's lived on its bank in a home on Walnut Street.

This spring, he started paddling it every day, finding a few moments of peace, but also preparing for a historic canoe trip next month from Albany to New York City down the Hudson River.

The trip is known as the Two Row Wampum Renewal Epic Canoe Trip and is being organized by a group of Native Americans in the Syracuse area to commemorate the first treaty between Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) and Dutch traders in 1613.

"Basically, the treaty said, 'we're in our canoes, you're in your ships, we're going down the same river together, but we won't bother you, you don't bother us,'" Levins said. "That didn't always work quite so well, but the Iroquois and Haudenosaunee have honored that treaty. This is a 400-year renewal. It's the basically indigenous person saying we're losing the path here and we need to get back to some of these old ways."

Levins is half Native -- his mother was from the Six Nations in Canada -- and his cousin from Six Nations introduced him to the trip.

The journey starts July 27 and ends Aug. 9 on the United Nations Indigenous People's Day. 

Along the way, there will be seminars and lectures. The trip is intended to promote peace, friendship and environmental sustainability.

Levins has been paddling on the Tonawanda every day since the start of spring preparing for the trip. Every day, he says, he has the creek to himself. He sees geese, ducks, herons, beavers and deer and listens to the birds tweet and twitter.

"I've even seen deer swimming in the creek," Levins said. "I was going up the creek, coming around the bend, and I saw something in the water. At first, I thought it was a beaver. There's a lot of beaver in here. Well, the beaver started to get up out of the water and it turned into a deer. A nice young buck with velvet."

Because of the historic meaning of the Tonawanda to both Natives and white settlers, Levins said he's always felt a special connection to the waterway that was once an important transportation link.

"The creek holds a lot of meaning to me," Levins said. "There's so much history here."

Links:

February 27, 2013 - 2:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, weather, Tonawanda Creek.

It's been snowing in Genesee County pretty much continually since last night, but as you can see from the banks of the Tonawanda along West Main Street, Batavia, that there hasn't been much accumulation.

What accumulation there has been is pretty much just slush.

The Weather Service says expect more of the same through tomorrow.

January 27, 2013 - 1:56am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, animals, Tonawanda Creek, swan.

A reader alerted us Saturday that she had seen a swan on the Tonawanda Creek earlier behind Settler's. Sure enough, we found this big white bird hanging out with the geese.

October 30, 2012 - 6:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, business, environment, Tonawanda Creek, 7-Eleven.

Yesterday work crews started removing the fuel pumps and fuel tanks from the Wilson Farms location at 355 W. Main St., Batavia.

While people have told us the tanks needed to be removed because they were leaking fuel into the Tonawanda Creek, information obtained from the DEC indicates that's just not the case.

While there is some localized soil contamination, which the DEC is supervising for remedial clean up, the leak is contained to the property.

The property owner is listed as Sugar Creek Stores. Both Wilson Farms and Sugar Creek were sold to 7-Eleven early last year.

Earlier this year, 7-Eleven announced it was selling two Wilson Farms stores in Batavia. Industry reports at the time indicated 7-Eleven was not interested in locations that sell gas, but 7-Eleven recently rebranded the former Wilson Farms location in Oakfield.

While a source tells us the property owner plans to discontinue gas sales at the West Main Street location in the city, we've not yet been able to confirm that with a company representative.

The property is .35 acres and stretches from the shared property line with Settler's west toward Lambert's Design Jewelers, with a length of green space in between the buildings.

Fuel tank removal is expected to take another week or two.

UPDATE: A spokeswoman for 7-Eleven said the property is on the company's "divestiture list." It will be sold.

October 25, 2012 - 2:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Tonawanda Creek.

The Tonawanda Creek is a tremendous natural resource, according to Elizabeth Bentley-Huber, and it should be kept clean.

Residents dumping pollutants into storm drains isn't as much of an issue as it once was, but Bentley-Huber, along with other members of the Tonawanda Creek Watershed Committee, want to promote the idea that our neighborhoods are linked to the creek.

"One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that the water is treated between that drain and the creek," said Bentley-Huber, who is a district technician for the Genesee County Soil & Water Conservation District. "Whatever pollutants and chemicals it picks up are directly washed right into the creek."

To help promote the idea that we shouldn't dump or wash chemicals into the drains, the committee has purchased through a soil and water conservation district grant, a thousand medallions to place on storm drains.

Committee members are going out each Saturday as volunteers, weather permitting, and affixing the medallions to storm drains.

Bentley-Huber said the creek could really become a bigger part of our community, an attraction for people looking for outdoor recreation.

One of the biggest problems is clearing out the 43-mile stretch (11 miles in a straight line) of creek between Attica and Batavia. Log jams on the long, flat stretch can be a big problem, especially for boaters.

"That’s a lot of nice creek," she said. "It could be open for boating, and with the economy the way it is, people are looking for more inexpensive recreation.  Boating, canoeing or kayaking on the Tonawanda would be very nice."

October 19, 2012 - 8:02am

Each year about this time, like clockwork, wood ducks descend on a stretch of the Tonawanda Creek where it flows behind our home. The wood ducks feel right at home there, dabbling on the acorns which fall from the red oaks lining the bank.

No doubt they also are drawn to the calm, flat water and abundant shoreline vegetation. Overhanging bushes and vines provide ample cover.

Along the narrow corridor of Tonawanda Creek it's not difficult to see wood ducks during the month of October. In fact, I expect to see them whenver I walk to the creek bank, or at the very least, hear that unique call they make -- some might call it a squeal while others say it's more like a high-pitched whistle/whine.  

Taking pics of wood ducks on Tonawanda Creek is one thing, the wide open spaces of the Oak Orchard Wildlife Management Area is another story. The sloughs and backwaters here are ideal for ducks, but the place is so vast, it's easy to be in one place while the ducks are in another.

Tailor-made as this place is, on this morning I had seen only a handful of ducks, all moving too fast and too far away for photos. When I saw the stick nest pictured above, I decided to zoom in. 

That's when I saw the ducks in the background, rapidly dropping in altitude and heading for the flooded timber.

Is it mere coincidence that one of the most colorful species of waterfowl is on hand during that part of the autumn season when foliage is tinted to the max?

While wood ducks are among the first waterfowl to arrive, they will also be among the first to depart for warmer climes. As I watched the wood ducks swim back and forth among floating leaves on the creek behind our home, I knew that all too soon they will be winging it southward for an extended period of time. 

Whatever the species, be it wood duck or mallard, canvasback or Canada goose, there is graceful symmetry in the flight of waterfowl, and something sublime in a creature that beats its wings an incredible number of times each minute at altitudes and for distances that boggle the mind.

June 6, 2012 - 11:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Tonawanda Creek.

A decades-old tree was removed from the banks of the Tonawanda Creek today and the property owner hopes people understand -- it wasn't by his choice.

The tree removal is part of the Department of Environmental Conservation's effort to control flooding along the Tonawanda.

The location is off South Main Street Road, just east of the intersection with Fairway Drive (see map below).

Nate Fix, who owns Rebel Liners on West Main Street Road, bought the nine-acre parcel in 2005. Most of the land can only be used for agriculture. He can never build on it because of a DEC easement.

The DEC contacted Fix and told him about the tree removal and plans to cut away and deepen the creek bank.

"It was a beautiful old tree, but I understand why they're doing it," Fix said.

A few years ago, Fix said, floodwaters rose to about 4 feet on his property.

Mark Malinoski, DEC director of operations, said today that the project will provide more capacity for the Tonawanda in that section of the creek, which makes an abrupt right turn there before turning again sharply toward the west.

The improvements were recommended by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Besides removing several tons of soil, the DEC contractors will strategically place bolders along the creek in order to dissipate the energy of water flow to slow erosion in that section.

The creek bed has moved several feet north since the 1930s. In fact, Fix's property line actually extends into the creek, which is anomaly along the creek through Genesee County.

Throughout most of the county, the creek and a bit of bank on each side are public property.

"I pay taxes on that portion of the property, too," Fix said.

The tree came down, Malinoski said, because of its proximity to the creek bank.  Such trees actually speed up the erosion process because the water bores in at the roots and hollows out the bank around the roots.

Fix said the DEC offered him the wood from the tree as well as all the topsoil being removed. Fix gave the solid to his neighbor Bob Dickinson, owner of Dickinson Auto Service. Dickinson said he was thrilled to get the soil, which is filling in a large depression in the back of his lot.

May 21, 2012 - 3:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, weather, Tonawanda Creek.

A group of geese were behind Settler's -- as there often is -- and keeping cool in the Tonawanda this afternoon.

The temperature today is 76 degrees with humidity at 56 percent.

Thunderstorms are expected between 6 and 8 p.m.

Temperatures are expected to climb into the 80s by Wednesday with lots of sun.

March 20, 2012 - 11:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, photos, Tonawanda Creek.

Taken this evening off West Main Street, almost behind the Lambert's store.

March 20, 2012 - 10:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, recreation, Tonawanda Creek.

This summer, the Town of Batavia will build a small boat launch -- for canoes and kayaks -- behind Kiwanis Park, giving visitors and local residents a way to easily access the Tonawanda Creek between the city and East Pembroke.

There was a time -- in the early 20th Century -- when the Tonawanda in Batavia was more favored by local residents seeking recreation.

Officials with the town and the Soil and Water Conservation District hope the boat launch is just one more piece in place toward transforming the small river into a recreational asset again.

"We definitely want to encourage recreational use," said George Squires, conservation district manager. "Canoeing, kayaking, fishing, taking a look at nature -- there's a whole lot of things going on along the creek that people probably won't see if they aren't paddling along the creek somewhere."

The boat launch is being paid for with a $6,000 grant secured by the conversation district.

The town is supplying the design and engineering work.

Tom Lichtenthal, assistant town engineer and highway superintendent, said it will take two months to complete the permits.

Squires said he's hoping for a July 4th opening.

The launch will be constructed along an inlet stream that runs between Kiwanis Park and the former location of the Batavia Motel (acquired by the Town of Batavia).

Lichtenthal explained that there will be a path from the parking lot down to the water and a stone launch for the boats.

Only small boats will be allowed to use the launch. If the boat needs to be hauled by a trailer, it's too big.

While it's not part of the plan, Lichtenthal said he dreams of the day there might be funding to create a walking path -- or paving for bikes, too -- from River Street in the city to East Pembroke.

Some time in the middle part of the 20th Century, the creek apparently lost some of its appeal for recreational use.

Squires suspects property owners who adjoin the publicly owned waterway and creek banks restricted access.

Or it could have been the dredging of the creek, making its banks steeper and therefore harder to access.

Lictenthal -- and Squires says it was a problem -- suspects foul water from the previous wastewater plant kept people away.

Twenty years ago, the city -- with cooperation from the town -- installed a lagoon-style wastewater plant, meaning the water from the sewer plant is much, much cleaner by the time it's piped to the creek.

"We can point to a definite improvement in the creek," Squires said. "The water quality wasn't as good before the city upgraded the sewage system and that deterred some people from thinking of doing things on the creek. Now, the creek is in pretty good shape."

The access, Lichtenthal explained, will help return a "natural element" to the creek and hopefully be inviting enough for people to make good use of the launch.

The new boat launch will give people access to the creek from the dam behind the courthouse (if people want to paddle upstream and then drift back to the launch), down to the falls in East Pembroke (and people will need to paddle upstream to get back to the launch).

At some point, town officials would like to provide a second launch downstream in East Pembroke so boaters can travel downstream and not worry about getting back to the launch upstream.

There's also a launch behind Kibbe Park in the city -- that Lichtenthal said is hard to access and use -- but because of the falls behind the courthouse, it won't be possible for boaters to start in the city and end at the town's new launch.

Photo from the book "Batavia," by Barbara Ann Toal. In 1910, two brothers built three boats capable of carrying recreational passengers on the Tonawanda Creek. The Bluebelle, above, was destroyed in a flood in 1922.


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March 7, 2012 - 10:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, photos, Tonawanda Creek.

Taken this evening on the Tonawanda Creek behind the Kiwanis Park on West Main Street Road, Batavia.

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