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Chautauqua Creek facts for kids

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Chautauqua Creek
Chautauqua Creek.JPG
Early Autumn on Chautauqua Creek
Chautauqua Creek is located in New York
Chautauqua Creek
Chautauqua Creek is located in the United States
Chautauqua Creek
Location of the mouth of Chautauqua Creek in New York State.
Country United States
State New York
Region Chautauqua County
Physical characteristics
Main source Sherman, New York
River mouth Lake Erie
571 ft (174 m)
Length 15 mi (24 km)

Chautauqua Creek is a tributary of Lake Erie, approximately 15 miles (24 km) long, in the southwestern corner of New York in the United States. The headwaters of the creek rise in the town of Sherman, in Chautauqua County, and flow in a northerly direction through the town and village of Westfield where they empty into Lake Erie. For much of its length, the creek serves as the boundary line between the towns of Westfield and Chautauqua.


Seneca lore states that Chautauqua Creek took its name from a native fishing trip: having caught some fish in Chautauqua Lake, they brought the fish by foot to Chautauqua Creek and, surprised that the fish had not suffocated without water, released them into the water. Some time later, the same Indians found that that species of fish, once absent from the creek, were now there and in Lake Erie in abundance. Thus, according to the story, both the creek and the lake were given the name of "fish taken out" in the local Erie language. The story may be apocryphal, as the natives had several other folk tales claiming to explain the lake and creek's name.

The creek is believed to have been discovered by French explorers as early as 1615, probably by Etienne Brule, a scout and interpreter for Samuel de Champlain. He learned, as Native Americans had known since ancient times, that a short portage between Lake Erie and Chautauqua Lake connected the Great Lakes and Mississippi River systems, by way of the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers. In 1753 the French cut a road to Chautauqua Lake, now known as the French Portage Road, to facilitate the transportation of men and materiel between the two systems. The road began at the mouth of Chautauqua Creek and ran parallel to it for approximately two miles, then scaled an escarpment and continued to what is now Mayville, New York, roughly in the same path as the present New York State Route 394.

In 1804, James McMahan, the first settler of Westfield, established a grist mill near the mouth of the creek, at the head of the old trail, and others followed. For the next century the creek powered grist mills, saw mills, carding mills, and other manufactories.


The creek is stocked with small numbers of brown trout but is more noted as a steelhead fishery, boasting the highest catch rate of any New York river at 1.4 steelhead per fishing hour.

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