Poet, Essayist, Photographer, Naturalist

Wiley and Canadaway Creek: A Discovery Walk

Wiley Creek is hard to find. It lies in a trough about 20 feet deep, is surrounded by thick vegetation, with private homes backing up to it. I wanted to walk the creek to compare it to “my creek” in Babylon and to have fun exploring and discovering.

Japanese knotweed blocked my view while walking along Wiley Creek.  Russel Joy Park is a Fredonia Village recreation area. This park boarders the creek. There are basketball and tennis courts, a ball field, a picnic gazebo, and restrooms. My recreation was of a different sort. I wanted to find a place to descend into the creek and walk its bed as far as possible.

I found a place, barged through Japanese Knotweed and finally reached the creek. Creeks and me go way back. As a boy, I played along Cayuga Creek in Depew, upstate New York. I explored the Nissequogue River in Smithtown, in Suffolk County Long Island and wrote a book about it. Recently, I researched Sampawams Creek, created a Power Point program, and have extensive notes. I am fascinated by creeks.

Wiley Creek flows over Devonian Era shale and limestone rock that is 60 million years old. I headed toward the confluence of Wiley Creek with Canadaway Creek which flows into Lake Erie.

The valley walls are steep. This is because the creek gradient is steep enough to cause the water to cut into rock layers vertically. I saw layers of shale, pebbly bars, riffles, pools and two log jams.

The creek trickles along inches deep. Its flow is entirely determined by rainfall.

Be –bop splashy sounds of water flow between rocks, over rocks, under rocks, or in tiny waterfalls. Creeks have their own musical sounds, and prefer it to a CD. As I walk, I hear the clunk and crackle of stone hitting stone. The stones are flattened. This is sedimentary heaven. There is a thin coat of mud on the rocks and when I step on them, I do so carefully.

This is a wonderful adventure. I am walking in a creek in the charming village of Fredonia, New York. I hopscotch, splash, and stop to enjoy the intimacy of stone and flowing water. On a hot summer day, there is no place cooler than here.

I come upon a logjam that blocks the entire width of the creek from wall to wall. Large tree trunks and smaller branches have collected in a narrow place brought by flooding. I pick my way through this barricade and proceed. Later I asked a village employee I met on Main Street about flooding. “Back in 2009 the water touched the bottom of the bridge.” Later, when I reached that bridge, it was 9 feet above the creek bed. I imagined the torrential rainfall that led to this with wild, rushing muddy water looking urgent to get to Lake Erie. I found riprap rock barriers where Wiley Creek flows into the Canadaway. The logjams are testimony to the violent force of flooding. Most of the time, the creek is a lazy trickle. With practically no water seepage into soil, almost all rainwater flows into the hundreds of creeks atop the expanse of shale and limestone deposited 60 million years ago when a shallow sea was here.

I looked under rocks for salamanders but found none. I did see water striders and small minnows, and darters. The rocks are light gray. Stopping just to watch the flow is a meditation in itself. The creek is alive, intelligent, relevant, and related to everything. Both these creeks are the reason Fredonia is located here. Indigenous people, now the Seneca Nation considered the creek their source of food and water. Their reservation is not far from here. It is sacred to them and to me as well.

I came to a sharp, right angle bend where the creek abuts horizontal layers of shale. During floods, water slams into rock and sculpts it. There were concave shapes. I found a large concretion embedded in the shale. A concretion is a limestone structure that looks like a large circular cushion. Somehow, water with dissolved limestone seeped into the sediment long ago and solidified. The gravel bar flood plains are telltale signs of where the creek slows down. They occur on bends and as the creek changes course, its velocity slows and rock accumulates.

I saw almost no litter. This made a big impression on me because the Sampawams Creek where I live on Long Island has a long list of abuses.

I reached a huge ten foot diameter corrugated iron conduit. This marks the end of Wiley Creek where it joins the Canadaway. I dare not walk through the pipe so I exited the Wiley and reentered from a bank next to the Fredonia Fire Department. I passed under the West Main Street Bridge which was built in 1894. I suspect the early name of the creek was Canada Way. This may have eventually morphed into Canadaway. The creek flows directly toward Canada on its final exit into Lake Erie.

I continued walking. The Canadaway is wider than WiIey Creek. I found a rounded red stone which was the remains of a brick. I decided to keep it. Somehow, long ago, a brick found its way into the creek. The brick banged its way along the bottom and lost volume chip by chip.

I decided to bail out and continue on at some future time. On top of the bank, I discovered a patch of ripe wild strawberries. I picked several and popped one into my mouth. It had no taste, and I identified it as Barren Strawberry. “Fruit dry and inedible” (P 184; Newcomb Wildflower Guide)

Mary Margaret and I drove to a site close to the mouth of Canadaway Creek on Route 5 near Temple Road. We were looking for a kayak put in site. The water looked deep enough, but the bank was riprap stone and the carry long. I discovered a dead Grey Catbird, picked it up to take back home and make a sketch.

On another day, my sister and I decided to order a take-out lunch and sit at another spot on Wiley Creek. It was at the rear of a friend’s property. The creek is much narrower here without much of a valley. The homeowner built a sturdy bridge over the creek. “During a flood, the rushing water moved the bridge a few inches. The owner is an engineer so the bridge is well designed.”

As we ate lunch, a mother white tailed deer and her fawn appeared not far away. Her cinnamon-colored coat was easy to see. Its young fawn had the markings of dappled light. When she walked away, the fawn scampered to stay close to her. It only takes an experience like this to urge me on for more explorations. My little creek on the South Shore of Long Island is impossible to wade. I call myself the “CREEK KEEPER.”


Sifting Compost


Currant Affair


  1. Nick

    Hi Tom. I stumbled upon this, as a Fredonia native. While a lot of people think that Canadaway Creek’s name refers to its location relative to what we now called Canada, it actually is an anglicization of a Senecan word.

    “The stream was originally settled by the Erie tribes and later by the Iroquois who called the stream “Ga-na-da-wa-o”, meaning “running through hemlocks”

    Thanks for this nice reminder of home 🙂

    • Megan

      Thank you both for the great information

      • tom stock

        perhaps you’d be interested in many other essays that i would call “great information” as a nonfiction writer for over 50 years, i don’t strive to publish other than in wordpress. my blog has over 300 essays. give a look, browse, find more “great information.” for me the definition of great information is not scads of data, but just enough wrapped in fresh phrases and sentences to delight a reader. lately, i am writing a column in a journal called PATHWAYS. it is a quarterly published by the NEW YORK OUTDOOR EDUCATION ASSOCIATION. I have been a life member for 50 years. i am working on an essay about sneaking things into an educational program that were not intended but come up as “moments” trying to not be a sage on the stage, but a guide on the side.

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