Photo of Susqueshanna River headwaters where it flows out of Lake Otsego, in Cooperstown, New York

Weekly Gem #65 A brand new start for an ancient river

Published 4/2/2016

Location:  This 'hidden gem' is located at the southern tip of Otsego Lake in Cooperstown, NY (see Clue Me! Map).  Here you can visit the humble beginning of the Susquehanna River, which grows enormously over its 450 mile length, adding 250,000 gallons per second into the Chesapeake Bay.

Here's something interesting though. Otsego Lake is 10,000 years old (carved out by the polar ice cap during the latest ice age), and the Chesapeake Bay is 10,000 years old (filled up after that ice age), but the Susquehanna is 300 million years old, give or take a few tens of millions. In fact, the Susquehanna is one of the 4 or 5 oldest rivers on earth.

This river was carving away somewhere near here, and above here, when the continents were all snuggled together in the Pangaea supercontinent. It was flowing for, say, 50 million years before any dinosaurs showed up, another 200 million before the Appalachian mountains rose.

The obvious conclusion is that "relativity" is a term that applies to rivers just as much as it does to physics. By our calculations, this spot has been the birthplace of the Susquehanna for a relatively short span of time, and that the river 'began' someplace else for about 99.996667% of the time it's existed. If measured in 'river years,' this really is a brand new start.

The Susquehanna has seen lots of beginnings and lots of ends, but the middle just keeps on going.


Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.


Birthplace of the Susquehanna River


In Cooperstown, NY, don't miss the point where the Susqueshanna River begins as it flows out of Lake Otsego.

Why It's Interesting

At this peaceful spot, Lake Otsego empties into a small stream which over the next 464 miles grows to become the mighty Susquehanna River, which drains 27,500 square miles (71,000 km2), providing half the freshwater inflow for the Chesapeake Bay. This is one of the oldest rivers in the world, being well-established by the Mesozoic era.

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