About The Hoosic River

What Does “Hoosic” Mean?

The river's name is from the Algonquin language, and has been spelled various ways: in North Adams and Adams both Hoosac and Hoosic are used. In Williamstown it is Hoosic and at the New York border it is Hoosick. It probably means "beyond place" and refers to Mahican hunting grounds "beyond the Hudson".

How Big is the Watershed?

The Hoosic is a three-state river. It is fed by streams that run down from the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Taconics of New York, and the sides of Mount Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts (3,491 ft.). It runs 70 miles from where it begins, at the Cheshire Reservoir in Massachusetts, to where it enters the Hudson river at Stillwater, NY. Altogether, the Hoosic and its tributaries drain 720 square miles of land.

What Are the Tributaries?

They are the Hoosic North Branch, the Green River, the Little Hoosic, the Walloomsac, the Owl Kill and the Tomhannock.

Do I Live in the Hoosic Valley?

You might, if you live in Adams, Berkshire, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Hancock, Lanesboro, New Ashford, North Adams, Savoy, or Williamstown. (Many VT and NY towns are also in the watershed.)

Is Any of the Watershed Protected?

In Massachusetts, 29 miles of the Hoosic have been adopted as a state-designated Local Scenic River. Two tributaries on the west side of Mount Greylock, Hopper and Money Brooks, are state-designated Natural Scenic Rivers. The Department of Conservation and Recreation holds Mt. Greylock and nearby watershed lands in Massachusetts, and the Green Mountain National Forest holds much of the watershed acreage in VT. The Tomhannock Reservoir in New York is also protected, because it is the water supply for the city of Troy.

Why Does the Hoosic Flow North?

The Hoosic one of the few rivers in this region that did not succumb to the north-south gouging of the glaciers 10,000 years ago. As the glacier melted, the Hoosic returned to its preglacial riverbed, to flow northwest and carry off water from glacial Lake Bascom. Traces of that lake are still visible as gravel and sand beaches, now 1,300 feet above the river valley in northwestern Massachusetts and southern Vermont.

Who Were the First People to Live Along the River?

Many archaeological sites for the valley have been listed, dating to Colonial times and earlier. The segment between North Pownal and Hoosick Falls contains 10 known prehistoric sites. The Native American site at Schaghticoke, NY is over 8,000 years old. River Bend Farm in Williamstown is said to have been an Amerindian camping place where travelers and hunters enjoyed the nearby mineral springs.

When Did North Adams Become an Important Site on the Hoosic?

The Dutch had a trading post in what is now Albany in the early 17th century, and then moved eastward up the Hoosic from the Hudson. By 1745, the British were also coming into the area. They laid claim to land east of the Hudson by building Fort Massachusetts beside the Hoosic in what is now North Adams. Meanwhile, the French were moving south from Canada. Thus, the Hoosic watershed became a battlefield for three European powers and their Native American allies. The British finally drove the French north after skirmishes on lakes Champlain and George, and also at Fort Massachusetts.

How Did the Hoosic Power the Industrial Revolution?

By the mid-1800's there were mills and factories along the river, using the river as a source of water power and as a way to get rid of waste. Industry continued to build along the Hoosic throughout the 1800's and much of the 1900's. New England and New York became world leaders in manufacturing and technology, in part due to Hoosic water power.

Why Is the Hoosic in a Concrete Channel?

After heavy rain or snow, the narrow, steep sides of the upper valley act as a funnel. Floodwaters rush from the hills into the valley bottom. Once people had built homes and businesses in the valley, these floods were very destructive to property. In the 1940s and 1950s, flood control structures were built in Adams, North Adams, and elsewhere in the watershed by the US Army Corps of Engineers.

How Clean is the Water?

Like many rivers in the United States, the Hoosic is cleaner today than it has been since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Some old contaminants remain, and there are still sources of pollution, but overall, water quality is much better because of state and Federal clean-water laws, including the Clean Water Act of 1972. Much of the Hoosic mainstem in Massachusetts is classified for contact recreation, though it does not always meet that standard.

What Is the Biggest Remaining Pollution Problem?

One of the biggest concerns for the Hoosic today is not industrial pollution, but “non-point-source” pollution: the contaminants that come from all our individual households, plus what runs off streets, parking lots, and agricultural land. There are many ways to reduce this problem, especially with good house and lawn practices and sound land use policies.

Where Do I Find Out More?

For more information about the Hoosic, visit the website of the Hoosic River Watershed Association at www.hoorwa.org.

Above Information Courtesy Of:

Hoosic River Watershed Association
P.O. Box 667, Williamstown, MA 01267