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Mohawk Valley

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About the Mohawk Valley

The Mohawk Valley is a broad lowland region extending east-west in central New York State, wedged between the Adirondacks to the northeast and the Allegheny Plateau to the southwest, along the Mohawk river, which flows east into the Hudson.

This region is a broad, irregular valley with significant variation in topography. It is underlain by limestone and shale, rocks much more easily-erodible than those of the nearby mountainous regions. When glaciers receded from this area, an overflow from Glacial Lake Iroquois flowed through this area, eroding the valley floor and depositing it to the east in what is now the Hudson valley. The floodplain of the Mohawk river is very flat, but quite narrow in regions, deeply eroded from the surroundings. The rest of the valley contains rolling hills, river terraces, and low mountains. Elevations range from 400-1812 ft and local relief from 200-800 feet. Soils here are loamy and nutrient-rich, well-suited to western agriculture.

This region has a humid continental climate; precipitation is ample year-round; the northernmost part of the region has markedly higher precipitation. The frost-free growing season is 120-180 days, also making this region more attractive for agriculture than most of the surrounding areas.

This region has a range of different forest types on different sites. Moist, fine-textured soils are dominated by sugar maple and American beech, with small numbers of eastern hemlock and understories of witch-hazel and hobblebush. Slopes and ravines support hemlock-northern hardwood forests. Floodplains are dominated by silver maple, green ash, and American elm, with a diverse layer of herbaceous plants including ostrich fern. Northern white cedar can be found on exposed, rocky sites.

This area is heavily farmed, with much of the remaining forest existing only as small woodlots and other fragments. Most of the farming is dairy, pastureland, and forage crops; there is also some grain and soybean production, as well as vegetables and strawberries. There is also some urbanization; the region contains the small cities of Utica and Rome, and many smaller towns. The Erie Canal runs through this region, and engineering and maintenance of the canal, including channelization of the natural river, has altered the structure of wetlands and surrounding meadows.

The Mohawk Valley can be seen as somewhat of a "connector" that runs between higher-elevations, connecting several other lowland regions with each other. Along its length, this region is bordered to the south by the more-rugged and less-intensively-farmed Glaciated Low Allegheny Plateau. At the east, it opens up into the Hudson Valley. At its west end, it shares a small border to the southwest with the more rugged Finger Lakes Uplands and Gorges region, and north of that, it is bordered to the west by the Ontario Lowlands. To the northwest, it borders the Tug Hill Transition. Its northernmost tip has a small border with the Upper St. Lawrence Valley. Much of the region is bordered to the north and northeast by the Northern and Western Adirondack Foothills, except at its easternmost end where it is bordered to the north by the Eastern Adirondack Foothills.

References

1. Bryce, S.A., Griffith, G.E., Omernik, J.M., Edinger, G., Indrick, S., Vargas, O., and Carlson, D. "Ecoregions of New York (Poster)", U.S. Geological Survey (2010) Web.