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Fishing and Canoeing the Black River

in Jefferson, Lewis and Oneida counties

view large map

The Black River originates in the western Adirondacks and then follows the divide between the Tug Hill Plateau and the Adirondack foothills to Carthage. For the lower 31 miles it follows a wide curve to Watertown and then a gorge that goes straight to Lake Ontario. There are substantial changes in gradient, from the steeper slope of the upper 18 miles to the flat meanders of the middle segment and the white water rapids of the lower river gorge.

Map shows location of Black River

The upper segment goes from North Lake to Lyons Falls (42.6 miles) and ranges from mountain lakes to a mountain stream to a sandy river. Canoeing is good for the reach from Forestport to Hawkinsville and from Norton Road to Lyons Falls. There are two lakes, North and South lakes; two reservoirs, Kayuta and Forestport; two smaller dam-pools at Hawkinsville and Denley; and, a tier of three dams at Port Leyden. Fishing catches include brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass and chain pickerel.

The middle segment goes from Lyons Falls to Carthage (40 miles) and is particularly low gradient (less than 10 feet in 40 miles) with no dams. High Falls is at the upper end of this the cool water section or area poorly suited to trout. Spring flood waters make this area like a lake, and this habitat has historically provided exceptional catches of bullhead. Now the walleye catches are more noteworthy. The three larger tributaries, Otter Creek, Independence River and Deer River, can also be canoed and fished near their mouths. Rocky areas are more common upstream of Greig, and meanders are extensive near Lowville. Fishing catches also include northern pike, smallmouth bass, rock bass and chain pickerel.

The lower segment continues downstream to Lake Ontario (31 miles). The last mile completes the transition to Lake Ontario, with some riffles, weedy bays and many extra kinds of fish. The Long Falls in Carthage extends through an industrial segment, and there is a long portage around it. Continuing downstream, there are nine dams still in place to Watertown. The remains of the industrial development which used this water power has been updated by hydro power companies which provide convenient access and portages around most of the dams or bypass reaches. In the middle of Watertown is Great Falls, at Mill Street, and this is the historic barrier to fish from Lake Ontario. Fish ladders built in the 1980's at Dexter and Glen Park allow steelhead and Chinook salmon to swim as far as Water Street in Watertown. Trout are stocked at two areas in Watertown, and smallmouth bass are also caught here. Walleye and pickerel are caught farther upstream and downstream of Watertown. Canoeing and boating through this gorge section are limited to only a few small areas. Whitewater rafting and kayaking are more popular.

Key to Fish Species

BKT= brook trout, BB=brown bullhead, PKL=chain pickerel, RB=rock bass, YP=yellow perch, SMB=smallmouth bass, LMB=largemouth bass, RT=rainbow trout, BT=brown trout, WE=walleye, NP=northern pike, SAL=salmon, CC=channel catfish

River Section Size Fish Canoeing Comments
South Lake 499 ac. BKT, BB Access is along the shoreline road. The lakes have shallow bays with large boulders. Fisheries are affected by acidification, but BKT and BT are stocked annually.
North Lake 442 ac
North Lake - Kayuta Lake 16.9 miles BKT Canoeing is not practical, but there is good fishing from the bank or by wading. This is a shallow, high gradient brook. Access for fishing is poor at Reeds Mill (posted) and Enos (posted), but public fishing access is at Crandall Falls, by lower Black Creek
Kayuta Lake 474 ac. 5.3 mi. PKL, RB, SMB, LMB, YP, BB Access ramps are at the upper end at the KOA (fee) and near the dam (free). Fishing is good in the uppermost section that is stream like. Fishing the lake area is more challenging.
Forestport Reservoir 101 ac. 1.4 mi. SMB, RB, YP, BB Access with a ramp is at the dam. The bay with Woodhull Creek offers special fishing
Forestport-
Denley Dam
13.1 mi. BT, RT, RB, SMB There is a canoe launch at the hydro tail water site. Several access sites are along Edmond Road and at bridges. Additional access is at Hawkinsville, Camp Road, Norton Road, and River Road. Spring flows will alleviate low water problems. Trout are stocked in this reach. Fly fishing is popular at Norton Road and by the shale banks (Camp Road).
Denley Dam - Lyons Falls
6.2 mi. BT, RT, RB, SMB Dams at Port Leyden (3) require portage, and a ramp at Davis Road, also provides access to the lower Moose River. A park at Lyons Falls, above the dam, offers picnic areas and bank access. This is the lower end of the cold water reach and few trout are caught farther downstream.
Lyons Falls - Independence River
13.2 mi. WE, SMB, PKL, NP, BB, RB Access at Lyons Falls is at the falls and at the water treatment lagoon. There is an undeveloped access site just downstream of Burdicks Landing, (the bridge to Greig) and at Glenfield. This section has a very low gradient. At low water levels, there are hazards from log diversion structures and old pile dikes.
Independence River - Beaver River
17 mi. WE, SMB, PKL, NP, BB, RB Access is at bridges at Lowville (Beaches Landing), at Dadville (Route 812), and at Castorland (Route 410) near the Beaver River. An accessible fishing pier is at Water Street or Dadville. This section has a very low gradient.
Beaver River - Carthage 9.8 mi. WE, SMB, PKL, NP, BB, RB Access is at an undeveloped site at the mouth of Deer River and at Carthage (both sides). Camping at Babcock's near Carthage. Fishing is good at scour holes near tributaries and ditches. Carthage has a waterfront park at Turning Point. This section has a very low gradient.
Carthage -
Felts Mills
12.7 mi. WE, PKL, NP, SMB, RB, YP Access at West Carthage Sewage Treatment Plant, above Herrings Dam, Jackson II Road around Deferiet Dam, at other dams. Fishing is good below dams and in reach below Deferiet (Ft. Drum). Black River (village) has a waterfront park.
Felts Mills - Huntingtonville at Route 3 7.4 mi. WE, PKL, NP, SMB, RB, YP Access at Huntingtonville above Route 3. Portages are marked at dams An accessible fishing pier in Watertown (above Route 3) is annually stocked with large BT.

Huntingtonville at Route 3 into Watertown

1.8 mi. SMB, WE, PKL, NP Canoeing is possible in the impoundment at Glen Park, with access just upstream of the dam. Watertown has a waterfront park for walking and biking.
Watertown at
Mill Street -
Dexter
7.4 mi. SAL, SMB, WE, NP, RB, YP, BB Rafting and kayaking are also popular downstream of Watertown. There is good access at Dexter, with a boat ramp upstream of the dam. This provides upstream travel to Brownville. Steelhead fishing is popular near VanDuzee Bridge where large BT are stocked annually. There are fish ladders at Glen Park and Dexter dams.
Dexter -
Lake Ontario
1.5 mi. SAL, SMB, WE, NP, YP, BB, CC Access is found downstream of Route 12E with a boat ramp. Canoeing is also good in bays like Perch River, Chaumont River, and Muskellunge Creek. Fishing is popular below the dam and throughout the area. Channel catfish and bullhead are caught in spring.
Public Fishing Sign

For more information, check out the following:

"Lewis County Black River Canoe Trail Guide"
Lewis County Chamber of Commerce
7550 S. State St.
Lowville NY 13367
(315) 376-2213 or (800) 724-0242

"1000 Islands, Black River Guide"
Greater Watertown Chamber of Commerce
1241 Coffeen St.
Watertown NY 13601
(315) 788-4400

"Beaver River Canoe Route"
Brookfield Power
225 Greenfield Parkway, Suite 201
Liverpool NY 13088


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