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Sawmill Creek Wetlands

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Located in beautiful Richmond County New York, Sawmill Creek Wetlands exemplify the extraordinary diversity found throughout Region 2. Showcasing a stunning mixture of dense hardwood forests, lush wetlands, and expansive marshland, visitors to Sawmill Creek can enjoy a variety of recreational activities, including nature and wildlife observation, photography, hiking, and bird watching.A Heron On the Grassy Shore

History

Originally created from the recession of the Wisconsin Glacier over 10,000 years ago, the marshlands on the western side of Staten Island obtained their unique composition through the accumulation of organic sediment and soils.

In addition, increased concentrations of minerals and organic debris along the floodplain of the Arthur Kill River have further contributed to the vital habitat found within the Sawmill Creek area.

Not surprisingly, the salt marshes and wetlands found here were used extensively by Native Americans and early European settlers for harvesting oysters. Cultivation of various types of vegetables was also practiced on these rich soils, resulting in abundant supplies of food for a growing community.

In the early 1700s the area was known as Maggie Merrill's Creek, of which the first recorded owner was Richard Merrill. Merrill constructed the region's first grist mill on the creek, and it was used for making flour for many local Staten Island farmers as it passed through many generations of Merrills.

view across a field at Sawmill Creek

A second mill, a saw mill, was erected in the late 1700s shortly after the Revolutionary War; however, both mills were sadly removed by 1850 so the regions rapidly expanding oyster industry could flourish on the extensive mud flats found along the creek.

The creek's name changed to Sawmill Creek sometime in the 1800s not because of the mill originally located on its bank, but due to the manner in which the creek appeared to "saw" its way through the marshland on its way toward the Arthur Kill.

In addition to the Federal wetland regulation in Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, and Section 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1977, wetlands in New York State are regulated under the State's Freshwater Wetlands Act of 1975 and Tidal Wetlands Act of 1977 so as to preserve and protect the state's dwindling wetlands and restore them whenever possible.

Although the law stipulated that no land falling within a designated wetland could be altered without a permit, the law was rarely enforced in the New York City Metropolitan area until September 1990. At that time, the Department of Environmental Conservation opened a regional enforcement office in Long Island City, allowing for stricter surveillance and increased fines for damage to the state's most precious resources.

In 1990, a large oil spill resulted in the loss of several vegetative species, including salt marsh cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) and common reed (Phragmites australis), along with the subsequent erosion of the northern and southern shores of Saw Mill Creek marsh site. As a result, a substantial restoration project was undertaken in 1992 to replant and re-establish the marsh, causing the visual impact of the oil spill to be virtually eliminated by 1996.

The preservation and restoration of the salt marshes and wetlands within the New York City and Long Island regions have proved crucial for the survival of many varieties of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals, along with a wide variety plants. As a result of these restorative efforts, the marshes and wetlands within Saw Mill Creek have been able to fully regrow, enabling the plant and animal life in this ecosystem to once again thrive.

Field Notes

A tributary of the Arthur Kill tidal strait, Sawmill Creek has carved a series of beautiful ravines which now gracefully overlook the glistening creek as it makes its way toward the Arthur Kill on its journey to drain the western portion of Staten Island.Wooded Area at Sawmill Creek

Adorning these rugged cliffs with a rich green cover is a dense forest of mature northern hardwoods and hemlock. Within these primitive woods one may find a wide assortment of animals, including raccoons, muskrat, and rabbits.

The marsh and surrounding wetlands are also a favorite site for several varieties of nesting colonial wading birds including, herons, egrets and ibis.

The various cordgrass, spike grass, marsh elder, common reed and cattails that thrive here have created an exceptional habitat wherein the birds may forage with ease on the plentiful concentrations of fish.

Directions:

Sawmill Creek Wetlands may be accessed by taking the West Shore Expressway (Route 440) to either Chelsea Rd or Bloomfield Rd directly east of the railroad tracks. Parking is available from the shoulder of the road.

***Stay Safe- Bring a Friend When Visiting the Property***

State Forest Regulations

For your safety and protection of the resource, the following regulations are in place:

  • All State Properties are Carry in Carry Out facilities
  • Unauthorized cutting of live trees or new trail building is prohibited
  • No hunting is allowed on any R2 NYS DEC properties
  • Fishing is allowed in compliance with State regulations
  • No camping is allowed
  • Keep pets under control and on leash while other forest users are around
  • Unauthorized use of off-road motorized vehicles is prohibited. This includes cars, trucks, ATVs, and motorcycles.

Important Numbers:
State Forest Office (M-F 8 am- 4 pm): 718- 482 4942
Emergencies: 911


More about Sawmill Creek Wetlands:

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    Lands and Forests
    Hunter's Point Plaza
    47-40 21st Street
    Long Island City, NY 11101
    718-482-4942
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