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Black River Watershed

A brief overview of this watershed and its water quality is presented below. For more detailed information about the Black River Watershed, published NYSDEC reports are also available.

Facts about this Watershed

NYS Map identifying the Black River Watershed
Click the image for a detailed watershed map

The Black River drains the western slope of the Adirondack Mountains and the eastern edge of the Tug Hill Plateau before flowing north and west and emptying into Lake Ontario. The Black River watershed is mostly forested and sparsely populated; the primary population center is located in Watertown.

Location: North central New York State

  • Much of Jefferson, Lewis and Herkimer Counties, and
  • Portions western Hamilton and northern Oneida Counties.

Size: 1,920 square miles of land area.

Rivers and Streams: 3,910 miles of freshwater rivers and streams. Major tributary watersheds to the Black River include:

  • Moose River (872 river/stream miles)
  • Beaver River (624 miles)
  • Independence River (207 miles)
  • Deer River (201 miles)

Lakes, Ponds and Reservoirs: 179 significant freshwater lake and reservoir segments (33,500 acres) including:

  • Stillwater Reservoir (6195 lake/reservoir acres)
  • Fulton Chain of Lakes (4310 acres)
  • Lake Lila (1,414 acres)
  • Big Moose Lake (11,286 acres)
  • Woodhull Lake (1,258 acres)

How is the Water?

Water Quality in the Black River Watershed

In the Black River Watershed, about 66% of river/stream miles, and 58% of lake, pond and reservoir acres have been assessed (see Assessment Report).

Water quality Pie Chart. Rivers: 45% good, 15% Satisfactory, 6% Poor, 34% unassessed. Lakes: 2% good, 1% satisfactory, 55% poor, 42% unassessed
Good water quality: Fully supports activities and uses.
Satisfactory: Fully supports activities, but with minor impacts.
Poor (Impaired): Does not support activities and uses.
Unassessed: Insufficient data available.

Water quality in the Black River Watershed is strongly influenced by atmospheric deposition. Acid rain is responsible for much of the impairment to waters in the drainage. The atmospheric deposition of mercury results in fish consumption restrictions in a number of lakes in the watershed. Significant agricultural activities throughout the watershed also contribute less severe but more widespread concern.

Some important water quality concerns in the watershed

  • Acid Rain which limits the fish community and aquatic life
  • Atmospheric Deposition of Mercury which restricts fish consumption
  • Agricultural and Other Nonpoint Sources that contribute nutrients and sediment to waters
  • On-site Septic and Rural Community Wastewater Treatment in unsewered areas

About Water Quality in New York State

Water chemistry sampling in a NYS stream
Water Chemistry Sampling

Each waterbody in NYS has been assigned a Classification, which reflects the "best uses" of the waterbody. These best uses typically include the ability to support fish and aquatic wildlife, recreational uses (fishing, boating) and, for some waters, public bathing, drinking water use or shellfishing. Water quality is considered to be good if the waters support their best uses. NYSDEC routinely monitors & assesses water quality throughout the state and publishes detailed reports of these findings. For more information on these monitoring and assessment programs, see Water Quality Monitoring, Assessment and Planning.

What You Can do!

Each of us lives in a watershed. On our Watershed Stewardship page are some tips on actions that you and your friends can take to help your watershed.

DEC staff taking a kick sample in a stream
Biological Kick Sampling

Published Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Reports

Watershed Management Plans

More about Black River Watershed: