The Mohawk River is the largest tributary of the Hudson River. But somehow, it gets none of the respect accorded to its larger, more famous cousin, the Hudson.
We of European extraction tend to see the Mohawk more as a stream to be experimented upon than as a river deserving of peace and dignity.
It is as if everything we ever thought of doing to an American river, we did to the Mohawk. We pushed out her sovereign people. We built dams, locks, canals, and bridges. We carved towpaths, railroads, and superhighways. We raised villages, factories, cities, and hydroelectric stations. We spent 400 years bending, straightening, channeling, and harnessing her.
We never asked permission. And yet, the Mohawk went along with all of it, was a good sport about it.
But now her health, and her identity, are missing in action.
Later this month, I will climb into the highlands between the Catskills, the Allegheny Plateau, and the Adirondack Mountains, up to the source of the Mohawk River. From there, I will hike, wade, slog, and swim the entire 149 miles of the Mohawk, from the mountains down to the Hudson.
After Progress collided with the Mohawk River, the River was never quite the same again.
I swim in search of those missing pieces of Mohawk, those slivers of dark water captured by the attentions of Growth, Expansion, Commerce, and Manifest Destiny.
Somehow, without our realizing it, a great river was stolen from us.
I am hoping to find that river, and, just maybe, bring it back.