Field trip

Sediment complexity in the Onondaga Creek watershed due to natural processes and anthropogenic activities

Friday October 5th 9:00 am – 5:30 pm

Field trip organizer: Peng Gao

This field trip will provide attendees an excellent opportunity to see complex sediment-related issues in the Onondaga Creek watershed. The watershed is in a glaciated valley with a terminal moraine in its southern headwater area. The main stream, Onondaga Creek, runs from the southwest to the north with a total stream length of about 27 miles. A virtual tour of the sites is available here.

The trip will involve three sites along Onondaga Creek with different sediment-related characteristics:

Site 1: Mudboils and 1993 landslide (Tour guide: Bill Kappel – U.S. Geological Survey)

Near the southern end of the OC watershed, where the Tully Valley is located, exists a unique hydrogeologically-controlled phenomenon: the Tully Valley “mudboils”. They are volcanolike cones of fine sand and silt which discharge groundwater from confined, artesian-pressured glacial aquifers. The mudboils range several inches to several feet high with diameters ranging from several inches to more than 30 feet). Active mudboils are dynamic ebb-and-flow features that can erupt and form a large cone in several days, then cease flowing, or they may discharge continuously for several years ( ).

Near the mudboil location is the site of a large landslide which occurred in April, 1993. Debris from the landslide covered 1,500 feet of Tully Farms Road with more than 15 feet of mud, destroyed several homes, and disrupted domestic water-supply systems. (

Site 2: Flood-control dam and Onondaga Nation (Tour guide: Curtis Waterman, Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force)

In 1949, a flood-control dam was built by Army Corps and Engineers on the Onondaga Nation, an indigenous territory. Not only was the dam apparently overbuilt, but also causes a variety of environmental problems in the Onondaga Nation (

Site 3: The channelized Creek (Tour guide: Ed Michalenko – Onondaga Environmental Institute)

Near the outlet of the Onondaga Creek is one of several channelized parts of the Creek within City of Syracuse. The heavily channelized reach of the Onondaga Creek is easily spotted from here. Onondaga Lake, which receives water from the Onondaga Creek passes through the heart of the City of Syracuse. This reach has been affected by both suspended sediments supplied from upstream areas (Tully Valley mudboils) and waste water from its urban neighborhoods. The flow entering the Onondaga Lake can cause severe problems in the lake, and was, at one time, the most polluted lake in America (