Nature Conservancy Removes Reynolds Gully Dam in Finger Lakes

Project restores passage for brook trout on a Hemlock Lake tributary

Rochester | October 23, 2013

This week, The Nature Conservancy and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service removed a small dam on Reynolds Gully, a high-quality tributary stream in Springwater, N.Y. that harbors native brook trout and flows into Hemlock Lake, one of only two undeveloped Finger Lakes.

The project will restore more natural movement of water, better connect the stream to its floodplain and remove an unused structure on the river that is a hazard in times of heavy rain.

The Reynolds Gully Dam is located on a 310-acre property the Conservancy purchased in 2006 and hopes to eventually add to the Harriet Hollister Spencer Recreation Area, a popular state park between Hemlock and Honeoye Lakes. The property is entirely forested with northern hard woods, maples, oaks, pine and hemlock and features three small streams that converge into a single large gorge.

Engineers used heavy machinery to carefully remove the dam, restore the natural channel and reinstate features like plunge pools, and add rocks and logs to stabilize sections of the bank.

“Improving and in some cases removing outdated dams and culverts is an important storm readiness strategy,” said Gregg Sargis, The Nature Conservancy’s director of ecological management in Central and Western New York. In 2008, a series of powerful summer thunderstorms washed heavy amounts of logging slash from the property’s prior forestry activity down Reynolds Gully, filling the retention pond behind the old dam with sediment and debris.

But Sargis adds that the project’s biggest benefit will be improved habitat for brook trout. Brook trout are New York's official State fish and a popular fish with anglers, but many populations have been lost to habitat destruction and introduction of competing fish species. Once the dam is removed, brook trout and other fish will be able to access new habitats that have been blocked for decades. Fish below the dam are already tagged, which will allow the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to document population changes and the Conservancy to assess the success of the removal.

“The Nature Conservancy has worked in the Hemlock and Canadice Lakes watershed for decades acquiring land and collaborating with the City of Rochester and NYS DEC on management and conservation of 7,100 acres within the watershed,” said Jim Howe, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Central and Western New York. “We’ve also acquired more than 1,100 acres of land of our own.”

“Now, for the first time in more than 50 years, brook trout will be able to travel freely in this stretch of the watershed.”

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.

Contact information

Kate Frazer
The Nature Conservancy in Central & Western NY
(339) 222-2014


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