A Successful Streamwalk

Last Friday we had a great first streamwalk! Streamwalks are a fun method of visually assessing the waterway on foot, and gathering observational data. This citizen science outing drew a variety of community members and Bard College students. We were able to get up close to the Saw Kill, and generate lots of questions and ideas together as a group.

Finding the mouth of the Saw Kill


We began our adventure where the Saw Kill empties out in to the Tivoli Bays. From there we discussed the different parameters we would be assessing during the walk. We were interested in looking at different physical characteristics of the stream and the surrounding area such as the channel and hydrology, riparian zones, bank erosion, turbidity, barriers (man made and natural) and the presence of fish and insect habitat, pools, riffles, and algae.

Measuring the width and depth

At each stop we made along the river, we measured the channel and depth, and discussed each of the above parameters. Our discussions were diverse; prompting lively debates over what constituted a barrier in the river, lessons on effective riparian zones and recounting the history of this one mile stretch, from past channel diversions to the chocolate factory. A community conversation around the waterway was able to take place literally in it!

Wading through the Saw Kill!

As we traversed the one mile stretch, we were able to walk on trails beside the water, directly in it (the lucky ones in waders faring much better), and eventually along 9G and through a corn field where we lost sight of the river. Overall we were thrilled we were able to stay so close or in the Saw Kill for the majority of the walk. It is a wonderfully accessible portion of the Saw Kill.

Thanks to everyone who came out and volunteered!

We look forward to compiling the data we collected and sharing it with the larger community!

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Having fun at Hardscrabble Day

We had a wonderful time at Hardscrabble day in Red Hook this weekend! It was so great to see the community out and about, and what all of the local businesses and initiatives are up to.

A beautiful sunny day for Hardscrabble day! Thank you to awesome volunteers Sheila, Brent and Gwen!
Saw Kill Critters!
The most popular critter of the day…a Dobsonfly Larvae                                                                     (a smaller aquatic insect–a stonefly–is to its left)
Community members find themselves in the watershed
Community members place themselves on our watershed map

We had folks stop by to put themselves on our watershed map, talk about the upcoming sewer project, and check out our tank full of fun Saw Kill critters. We were so thrilled to see old friends, as well as meet many new community members.

Thanks for a great community event Red Hook!

STREAM WALK! 9/23 at Noon!

Dear Saw Kill friends and neighbors,

Please join us next Friday, September 23rd, from Noon to 4PM for the first Saw Kill Stream Walk! It should be a great time getting to know the first mile of our precious Saw Kill, and a fun time for all of us, for sure.

Please meet us at the “Community Garden parking lot” near the intersection of Blithewood Road and Bay Road on Bard’s campus. We’ll walk to the start of the official stream walk (near Bard Field station–no good parking down there). If you’re GPS-savvy here are the GPS coordinates of our start location: 42°01’06.1″N 73°54’43.7″W. Or see the image below!

Overview of the Activity: 
A “Stream Walk” is a scientific field assessment method that involves professional and citizen scientists assessing the health of a section of a stream based on visual criteria. This is done by walking along the edge of the stream or wading right down the middle. We’ll make observations, take measurements, and take notes–it’ll be fun! We’ll see waterfalls as well as plenty of cool plants and animals! (Just today we found many cool, friendly fish and insects in the water!). We gave ourselves 4 hours but it could be over in 2-3!

What to bring: 
A small backpack
A big water bottle
A snack (or 2)
A pencil/pen
Clothes/products for sun/bugs
Rubber boots (or wear our waders)
Socks for boots/waders
Camera (optional)
Binoculars (optional)
Tape measure (optional)

Looking forward to walking and exploring the Saw Kill together!
Tom, Sheila, Sheryl, and Laurie

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Upcoming Website and Art

The Bard Water Lab (BWL) runs the Saw Kill water monitoring program that every watershed community member is welcome to join. Lately, we’ve been working on developing a new website for the lab that will make the monitoring data available to anyone who is interested. Planning a website, especially with a large database is quite the process!

We’re working with people from the Experimental Humanities department and IT at Bard in order to produce something more intriguing than a typical science website. The BWL prioritizes including the community in research, so we’ve been trying to think of ways to accomplish this through a website.

Observations are powerful when it comes to environmental research, so the website will feature a platform for the community to share their observations with each other and the Water Lab. People will be able to post pictures, comments, ideas, etc. on the new website that will help connect the community around the Saw Kill as well as contribute to the BWL’s research. Starting an online dialogue will hopefully make the watershed more interesting and accessible.

The website will also have art, because who doesn’t love art?! Below is an example of something I created for the Bard Water Lab.


New Watershed Maps

Here are some new maps of the Saw Kill, Roe Jan, and Hudson Valley Watersheds that highlight their beautiful shapes rather than specific geographical accuracies. Just as we value the shapes of our nations, states, and cities, we can also value the shapes of our watersheds as symbols for the community. signedsawkill mapsignedroe jan mapsignedhudson valley map

Loving the Saw Kill

Coming from an artistic background, working with the Saw Kill Watershed Community was a completely new experience. This summer I participated in Bard Summer Research Institute, where I was first introduced to the SKWC and environmental science in general. As an outsider in the scientific community, I was unfamiliar with the scientific components that ostensibly characterize watershed stewardship. I had very limited lab experience and didn’t have much scientific knowledge at all.

However, this did not cause any problems or limit my involvement with the community. Actually, the protocols for water sampling and analysis in the lab were simple to learn and gave me an entirely new appreciation of local water.

Scientific involvement radically transformed my perception of the Saw Kill as a beautiful little river for swimming and looking at while hiking to a vital resource to my community that must be protected.

Honestly, before I learned about the actual state of the Saw Kill I expected that our polluting lifestyles are gradually eliminating its cleanliness and ecological integrity. I assumed that soon we will no longer be able to swim in it.

I think I had these negative expectations because we’re receiving a generally negative message about the way our lifestyles are affecting the environment. And because I am from a city and our local river is a disastrous toxic waste receptacle.

But this is not the case in the Saw Kill! Our river is healthy! The efforts of the SKWC, our environmentally friendly lifestyles, and probably a general lack of local industry have had a huge impact on the state of the Saw Kill. This is essential information and something to be very proud of.

I bet lots of people don’t know or think about the health of the water, but identifying ways of maintaining this degree of respect for our river is important. Scientific involvement in any form is a great way of connecting to the water and the watershed community. If we celebrate, love, and interact with the Saw Kill, it will remain healthy.