The ‘Dredge’ was an idea of the New York State Legislature in 1839 to connect the Erie Canal with the Allegheny River. Several routes were considered one of which came through Conewango. This never came to pass, but the idea did not die. Along this route that the ‘Dredge’ was to take was some of the best farming land there was, but every year it flooded and was unusable, so in 1896 a local 13 mile section of it (using the plans from 1839) was done to prevent flooding on both sides of the ‘Dredge’, thus opening new farm land-some 20,000 acres more, (not all of which was in Conewango). This was one of the largest projects of its kind ever attempted in western New York and was called the “Conewango Dredge”. It served its purpose for a considerable time, but no maintenance was ever provided. The shores eroded and trees fell over into the ‘Dredge’ and that dammed up the water. Flooding began again canceling out all the hard work and money that had been spent to prevent flooding. The land was once again covered with water.
In the mid-1990s , the situation had gotten so bad that “something had to be done”, so a group of interested citizens in the area formed and with donated money and labor began to clean out the original ‘Dredge’ and shore up the banks. Brush and undergrowth was cut away and hauled out. The bottom of the ‘Dredge’ was cleaned of 103 years’ worth of accumulation. This clean-up project started in 1999 just east of Cherry Creek and was completed in 2002-2003, at Waterboro. The middle section of this 13 mile project was in the town of Conewango.
The ‘Dredge’ of course, had not been built for recreation, although that was a side effect. Today in addition to its original purpose of draining acreage and preventing flooding, it also provides recreational opportunities.
Submitted by Marlynn McNallie Olson Ray