Sylvan Beach (Wood Creek Exploration) - September 18th, 1993

Wood Creek, running between Rome and Sylvan Beach, was the most interesting and frustrating part of the inland waterway passage - being narrow, twisting and always obstructed with fallen trees. Yet it was the linchpin of the entire waterway route.

Today it is the most historically intact part of the route, and the "Discovery" crew wanted very much to experience navigation on this stream during the Bicentennial. Yet access to the channel by boat is very limited, due to the places where it has been cut through by canal construction.

The one place where entry by "Discovery" was possible was off the Barge Canal, just a half-mile east of Sylvan Beach, and it was to this spot that the crew piloted the batteau early on the evening of September 18th.

The intent was to navigate up the narrow channel of Wood Creek to "Dean's Landing", an early landing spot for batteaux, and only a short distance, as the crow flies, from our encampment.

Click on any image to enlarge
A map of the old Wood Creek channel This map from the period when batteaux navigated Wood Creek to Sylvan Beach shows Dean's Landing - the objective of our September 18th navigation.

We very soon discovered some of the frustrations faced by earlier navigators, and the reason why, every spring, crews of cutters were sent down Wood Creek to clear out fallen trees and sunken timber.

Unstepping the mast On entering the old Wood Creek channel, the first order of business was to unstep the mast and stow it out of the way..
Oars had to be used Due to the relative depth of the channel near the entrance, oars were used to move upstream toward the first bend of the creek.
The channel is too narrow for oars Soon it became too narrow even for the oars, and they had to be stowed as well.
Using the poles For the first time on its voyage, "Discovery" was run with poles alone, in the configuration most often used for batteaux 200 years ago.
The channel is obstructed Soon it became obvious why it was called Wood Creek, as we faced some of the same frustrations batteauxmen faced in the 1790s trying to ascend this stream from Oneida Lake.
There is no way through Even with axes, saws and ample determination, we recognized that in spite of this being a channel passed by thousands of batteaux over the decades, we were not going to get through.
A dead end There was no passage through, and in spite of progressing some distance up the historic channel, we would remain about a quarter mile short of our objective of Dean's Landing.


Home icon

Next page icon

Home  Top  Next