Most of the six-mile long Sampawams Creek is secret except to those who live on its banks. 94% of the creek is inaccessible. You’d have to trespass on private property to get at it. The same is true for the other 120 creeks that flow into the Great South Bay and other marine waters.
Naturalist Tom Stock set out to learn some of these secrets. Living across the street from the creek, he took frequent walks along Shore Road, the marine portion of the creek. His curiosity and interest in scouting various natural habitat started him on a three-year journey. He looked at old maps, historic photos, and make several surveys along and in the creek.
As Tom says, “There are still secrets that I haven’t learned. But now I can give back to the community with posters, a power point programs, and printed handouts.”
To view this presentation with the text for each picture, click on the top left thumbnail and navigate using the arrows to the right and left of the photo.
For a trail map or to have Tom come and give the presentation in person, contact Tom at
This scene, looking north from Gerald Conroy 9 hole golf course is in Babylon Village . Babylon Town is on the left, Islip Town on the right.
This map shows 8 south shore creeks. They occur about every mile all along the south shore.
Within the yellow area, rainfall collects on the ground and seeps up from below. This water collects at the lowest point and forms the creek. After the glacier started to recede, melt water flowed south to form all the south shore creeks.
15,000 years ago, the glacier formed the Ronkonkoma Moraine ( shown in brown). A gap in the moraine allowed melt water to flow through the gap. The fast-flowing water formed the valley for the future Sampawams Creek.
Sampawams means “straight walking.”/ two Native American communities, The Secatogues, and Sampawams, migrated straight north into their winter quarters.
Sampawams Neck, Creek, and Point in 1875. Salt Marshes grew all along the salt water edges of the creek. These have all been filled.
The 19012 USGS Quadrangle of Babylon and Islip Towns shows Hawley Lake much closer to Montauk Highway. Note very little development along the creek.
Looking south from Montauk Highway is a good view of the estuary. The tide rises all the way to the old bridge.
Southards Boatyard is known for its vintage wooden boats.
10 Porters Landing in 1900 was easy access for cat boats used by fishermen.
This 1900 post card shows fishermen’s shacks on the Babylon side. On the left, West Islip was less developed.
Only a few fishing shacks are left. This one has been renovated.
Drawing of an 1803 fishing/boat shack called the Rohl building, 1803
Charming scene on the creek: a boathouse on the West Islip side.
Nonnative reed grass has replaced the native salt cord grass that grew in abundance along the south shore.
Tom Stocks’ small vintage wooden catboat was instrumental in his research.
Stock named the boat NANCAT after his wife Nancy Catherine Keating.
Only a few clammers work the bay these days. There about 6 garveys in slips today.
Sketch of trucks dumping sand to fill in the marshes on Sampawams Neck.
Iron Ring on concrete dock use to tether barges that transported lumber to Oak Island for summer cottages.
The old Mill on Hawley Lake, Demolished in 1900, site of a whip mill.
Last remaining artifact of the Hawley Estate on a concrete bridge off Parkwood Lane in West Islip
Hawley Lake aquatic survey, collecting the life in the creek.
The creek was channelized to flow under Rt. 231 – a Robert Moses project
Tracing to show railroad ( green) John St (orange), Rt. 231 (blue), Sampawams Creek.
As Sampawams Creek reached the delta, it leveled off creating meanders and braids ( tangled beds) An extra man-made channel was added to provide for floods.
Warning sign along the Donald Conroy Golf Course just north of the LIRR yard.
Donald Conroy Golf Course, fourth fairway on left. Embankment for Rt 231 on right.
This portion of the creek is just east of Rt. 231. It is inaccessible from the Islip side.
This street drain at the east end of Village Line Road, is one of over two dozen drains that direct rainfall into the creek.
Although the water in this scene looks tempting, the DEC classifies the creek as “impaired”.
Sammis Pond, off limits to the public, is just north of Sunrise Highway and on the west side of Higbie Lane.
The conduit under 231 shifts the creek from the east side to the west.
1/8 of a mile of the creek is enclosed in pipe. The wetland banks, essential to the health of the creek, have been eliminated.
One small bank of Sampawams Creek has been left intact. It is accessible at the one of the four dead ends off Poet Avenue in North Babylon.
This section of Sampawams Creek, south of Hunter Avenue, has become narrow due to growth of vegetation. Stock used waders to investigate this area.
North of Hunter Avenue, the creek is wider due to two small conduit piped under Hunter Ave.
The most beautiful place on all of Sampawams Creek is a cattail marsh just north of where Higbie Lane ends. Stock has formed a “Creek Corps” to remove nonnative aquatic plants that threaten the native cattails.
There is a small path along the creek by crossing a narrow bridge plank.
Deer Lake ( previously known as Guggenheim Lake) had a dam just north of Southern State Parkway. Public access is available on Kime Avenue.
Drought dried up Deer Lake in 2015.
Three red dots are public access points on this 1969 USGA Topographic map.
This Haagstrom Map from 1954 shows the 500 acre estate of Guggenheim.
Brook Avenue Industrial Park (traced drawing) has had a huge impact on the quality of Sampawams Creek. The yellow areas show where the sensitive wetlands are that have been filled.
Newsday story of recent illegal dumping on wetlands in Deer Park.
Behind West Brentwood Middle School, the headwaters of the creek have been imprisoned between two chain link fences. The creek bed is filled with trash.
This 1915 map shows Sampawams Neck partly developed.
Newsday article about dumping.
Robert Moses has a lot to do with changing the natural course of the creek.