The Saranac River runs through the heart of the City
of Plattsburgh. The river supported native peoples
long before the arrival of Europeans, and it has been
crucial in the commercial and industrial development
of the region since the first French missionaries came
in the early 17th century.
These industrial uses have had significant
environmental impacts on the river. The most notable
of these impacts has been soil contamination from
the New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG)
manufactured gas plant on the riverbank just
upstream from this site. Coal tar and petroleum
products used to produce flammable gas at the facility
from the late 19th century until 1960 have been
found in river sediments.
In recent decades, a concerted effort has been made
to restore water quality and reconnect people to
the river - important steps for building a thriving
community in the 21st century. Remediation of the
NYSEG property has been a priority. Contaminated
sediments are being removed, and riverbanks are being
stabilized to prevent erosion.
MacDonough Park - where you are now standing - and
Champlain Park have provided important open space
for residents and visitors. The Saranac River Trail
has made the river more accessible to walkers, cyclists
and others. A Downtown Revitalization Initiative
grant in 2016 paved the way for riverwalk
reconstruction, landings, overlooks, and other
The community's priorities for use of the river
have changed over time, but it has always been the
lifeblood of the region. What do you value most
about the river?
"Plattsburgh... is a
thriving city of 8,000
inhabitants. It is of
importance, being on
the direct line between
New York and Montreal.
Plattsburgh is thoroughly
cosmopolitan, with an
opinion to offer on every
question of the day."
-Seneca Ray Stoddard, 1905
The 1869 F.W. Beers map reveals a community with a thriving commercial and industrial base. Foundries, saw mills, woolen mills, machine shops, and a variety ofother businesses relied on the Saranac River.
The Williams Company produced sewing machines and typewriters at its plant atPine and Battery Streets between 1881 and 1922. Like many other Plattsburgh businesses, it thrived with the help of the river and the railroad. Photo: ClintonCounty Historical Association
Landlocked Atlantic salmon runs have started to rebound in the three-mile section of the river that runs from the Imperial Dam through downtown Plattsburgh to its mouth at Lake Champlain. Photo: Dan Lee