Union College


History of Mohawk River Floods

Floods have occurred on the Mohawk since its inception about 10,000 years ago. Here we are mainly interested in the history since settlement by the Dutch in the 1600’s.   The historical record of flooding on the Mohawk River was constructed through detailed examination of newspaper accounts, and other historical documents. 

Flooding of the Mohawk River is associated with two main types, "Free water" flood events and "break-up" events.  "Free-water" flood events commonly occur in late summer and early fall, during the peak of hurricane season and are associated with large amounts of precipitation.  Break-up events are associated with the break-up of river ice, resulting from rising temperatures, melting snow, and heavy rains and commonly occur during winter and early spring.  Break-up events are exacerbated by the formation of ice jams and account for the majority of the large-scale flooding events (< 15’).

The worst flooding occurred in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, where stages >15’ were reached eight different times in a span of 45 years.  This time span concluded with the great flood of 1914, the most devastating event in recorded history.  Since the 1914 event, there has been a decline in the frequency and magnitude of flooding in the Schenectady region. These are the web papers that we've completed to date:

Mean Daily Flow on the Mohawk River (NY) Shows a simple plot a average daily discharge values and the average annual volume of water that flows though the river.

Major floods on the Mohawk River (NY): 1832-2000. Paper details a historical chronology of floods on the Mohawk.

Major floods on the Mohawk and the Hudson rivers (NY): 1634-1831. A summary of some historical archives of flooding on the lower Mohawk, and some data on the Hudson.

Bridges across the Mohawk is a historical survey (~200 yr) of the bridges that have crossed the Mohawk River in the Lower Mohawk (around Schenectady NY).

Record of Flooding on the Mohawk River from 1634 to 2000 based on historical archives (Geological Society of America Abstract - here)


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