Author: Erynne Ansel-McCabe, Travel Trade Manager
How the Power of Water Connects a County
When I first looked at an overview map of Schoharie County I thought about how it resembled a leaf with the center stem of water winding through the middle. The stem obviously is the Schoharie Creek that flows North from the Catskill Mountains and empties into the Mohawk River. With all the many smaller feeder-creeks rushing to meet up with the Schoharie Creek, and form a web or network of waterways, the leaf image grew in my mind. It wasn’t until I attended a talk by a prominent archeologist that I began to think about how the culture of our County has been influenced by the use of these waterways over the centuries. It is well known that ancient inhabitants of this land knew of the beneficial waters, the caves that were created by them and the benefit of the rich soil caused by flood after flood. As evidenced by their found tools and arrowheads that these folks traveled great distances to settle in this land of abundance. Zoom ahead to the 1920’s, Schoharie County’s cave structures were fast becoming known to the inhabitants of New York City who were longing for adventure and a glimpse of nature they had only seen in famous paintings.
The great floods of Schoharie County have occurred over and over in the past hundreds of years with the most recent in 2011. The resiliency of the land and its residents after each flood event is evident in the creation of new ideas as well as celebrating the past. Today’s visitors see the same rich farmlands, clean streams and opportunity for adventure. Schoharie County still connects us in deep and personal ways.
Located in the scenic southern part of Schoharie County along State Route 30, Mine Kill State Park overlooks the New York Power Authority’s Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project. Cascading 80 Feet through a narrow gorge is the picturesque Mine Kill Falls for which the Park is named. A central summer-time feature of the Park is a beautiful outdoor pool complex which includes an Olympic size pool, wading pool and diving pool. Other activities include fishing, boating, hiking and disc golf.
The visitor experience at Blenheim-Gilboa is a triple play: The science of electricity and hydropower is on exhibit at the Visitors Center. Right beside it, history is preserved at Lansing Manor, a 19th century home. And it’s all surrounded by trails, boating, fishing, and other outdoor recreation.
The Blenheim- Gilboa Visitors Center is housed in a restored 19th-century dairy barn and is part of the Lansing Manor complex. The Visitor Center features a wide range of interactive exhibits on such subjects as Basics of Electricity, Uses of Electricity and operation of the Blenheim-Gilboa Pumped Storage Power Project. Lansing Manor is filled with authentic furnishings and priceless antiques from the first half of the 19th century. The Manor, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, contains 10 large rooms on two floors, plus a below-ground kitchen and other utility rooms and is a classic example of Federal period architecture. The complex is located on Route 30, 17 miles south of Middleburgh and five miles north of Grand Gorge, about one hour from Albany.
The Old Blenheim Covered Bridge was opened in 1855 to serve the residents of Schoharie County as a convenient way to move farm equipment and produce from one side of the roaring Schoharie Creek to the other. In wintertime, snow was brought in so sleighs could be used for transportation. Automobiles took their place in the early part of the Century but in 1933 a steel bridge was built adjacent to it, and the Bridge became pedestrian-only. This magnificent Bridge served the residents and countless visitors for over 150 years but on August 28, 2011 Tropical Storm Irene and the rising waters of the Schoharie Creek destroyed this beloved icon of Schoharie County. Today the Bridge stands again – a testament to the resiliency of this County’s people. A duplicate of the original bridge was built by FEMA and dedicated in 2017 and once again serves the County as a destination not to be missed.
Bunn Grist Mill
Built in 1885 in the Village of Richmondville, the Bunn Grist Mill can be found on 111 High Street. This Grist Mill was placed on the National Register of Places and is often used for music and art events as well as tours of the Mill and the adjacent Pond.
Fox Creek Covered Bridge
The total length of the Fox Creek Bridge is 115 feet and is in the Town of Schoharie off Rt.30. This is a wooden covered bridge and is just down the street from the Old Stone Fort and near the newly created Lily Park. The gentle Fox Creek runs below this covered bridge which is pedestrian only and it draws visitors to this romantic site for many occasions including weddings.
Howe Caverns is the largest show cave and underground waterway in the Northeast U.S. and is the seconded most visited natural attraction in the state of New York. Present day guided tours of its living limestone caves have been conducted for 90 years and includes a boat ride as part of the tour. Here visitors can see the power of water and the underground lake up close. The site is in the Hamlet of Howes Cave near Cobleskill and has spectacular views overlooking the Helderberg Plateau.
At one time, Sharon Springs catered to thousands of people who came to the area for the healing powers of its mineral waters. Visitors came to the Imperial Baths originally built in the 1920’s, located in the Village of Sharon Springs and served clients from all over the world. Huge hotels such as the 100 room Adler Hotel were built to accommodate the crowds. Today the Imperial Baths are being restored and once again will become a destination for many. While waiting, today many specialty shops and unique eateries line the Main Street including the beautifully restored American Hotel and the famous Beekman 1802 Mercantile Building home to the lifestyle creations of Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge, the Beekman Boys.