Exploring the past, building the future:
- Post by FCIDA
- February 1, 2023
The complex cultural history of the Sacandaga River Valley goes back thousands of years, and it’s closely tied to the river and its resources. The Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca nations fished the Sacandaga for salmon and sturgeon and used the river to move goods and people between the Adirondacks and the Hudson River Valley. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, European settlers began to arrive in the region and cleared land for farms, built mills, and established towns and villages along the river.
However, regular flooding made these settlements precarious, creating a complicated and fascinating legacy. In the early twentieth century, the New York Power Authority inundated many of the towns and villages in the valley and thousands of acres of farmland and forests to control the Sacandaga River’s treacherous flooding. The resulting reservoir, now known as the Great Sacandaga Lake, displaced thousands of residents and disrupted the local economy, but also served as a source of hydroelectric power, recreation, and tourism that continues to enrich the region today.
In 2017, the Great Sacandaga Lake Advisory Council (GSLAC) released the documentary Harnessing Nature: Building the Great Sacandaga, which chronicles the creation of the Great Sacandaga Lake. This popular documentary, in turn, inspired Destination: Fulton County – A Strategic Plan for American Rescue Funds, a 2021 initiative to develop the Great Sacandaga Lake History Museum using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding earmarked for a tourism-related project.
The museum’s interactive exhibits, special events, and educational programs will draw visitors from near and far to experience the unique history and culture of the area. Visitors will learn about the indigenous peoples who first inhabited the area, the early settlers who built homes and communities along the lake, and the industrial development that reshaped the region. Field trips and curriculum-aligned programming will equip local schools to supplement classroom learning and provide students with hands-on educational experiences.
The Great Sacandaga Lake History Museum promises to serve as a major Quality of Life destination. An increase in tourism means increased revenue for local businesses, particularly those in the hospitality and retail sectors. The museum has the potential to be an economic multiplier in Fulton County, as more visitors will attract more businesses and more businesses will attract more visitors.
The state-of-the-art museum will also provide plenty of opportunities for residents and tourists to explore the great outdoors, including a short hiking trail and a ‘Sacandaga Viewpoint’ above the museum. The property purchased for the museum sits next to the Northville-Lake Placid Trail, offering even more activities that promote a healthy lifestyle and community engagement.