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Remember: The Journey of Cedar Creek

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Journey of Cedar Creek

The journey of Cedar Creek does not in fact begin with Cedar Creek but with its main tributary, the Little Cedar Creek.

The Little Cedar Creek has its headwaters just to the northeast of Crackersport Road in South Whitehall Township.

The next stop on Little Cedar Creek is under a bridge south of the headwaters by Hausman Road. The creek is very affected and polluted by storm water drainage and run off here.

Its journey from here takes it under Route 309 and into a housing development. Here, the creek is more developed that it was at its source.

Little Cedar Creek then meanders under Springhouse Road. The creek here on one side is reinforced by stone cages; it reverts to its natural banks on the other side,

before entering the Allentown Municipal Golf Course and eventually Trexler Park. There are springs in Trexler Park that give the Little Cedar Creek some more oomph before it meets the Cedar Creek itself at Cedar Beach Parkway. So, where does that come from?

Just outside the city of Allentown, Cedar Creek begins at a spring.

The creek moves from its headwaters and heads towards the Lehigh County Sports Field, aka Cedar Creek Parkway West.

Cedar Creek is very narrow and shallow here. It is surrounded by thick areas of vegetation. It flows next through a cooperative trout nursery before cutting through the center of Dorney Park.

On the other side of Dorney, Cedar creek is dammed and for many years the lake that is there was defined by the great wooden roller coaster Hercules. While the footers of Hercules are still in the water, the metal structures of Hydra and Steel Force now dominate the lake.

At the dam, the creek splits. Water is diverted into Haines Mill and back into Cedar Creek. Haines Mill was built in 1760. The present mill was rebuilt in 1909 after a fire and operated until 1956. The Lehigh County Commissioners bought Haines Mill in 1972 for preservation as a working grist mill museum.(LC)

I was not able to tour Haines Mill on the day of my visit but tours are offered and I intend to return for one.

Water is discharged from Haines Mill in two directions. One, following a spillway, reenters Cedar Creek almost immediately.

The other, travels further before rejoining Cedar Creek near Cedar Creek Parkway East. At the end of the open field that is framed by these two bodies of water is a familiar sign:

I crossed Cedar Creek as it turned to travel through CCPEast. Here, is a beautiful section of park.

The creek side trail has a developed riparian buffer complete with signage and mowed access points. I imagine that what will be created in October in CCPWest will be similar to what is seen here currently. I have not yet done an official park log on the east and west sections of Cedar Creek Parkway, so in addition to this post chronicling the journey of Cedar Creek, consider it the missing park logs.

CCPEast ends at Cedar Crest Boulevard and from here, Cedar Creek travels through the main section of Cedar Creek Parkway into Muhlenberg lake, under Hamilton Boulevard and into Union Terrace.

I inquired at the Lehigh County Conservation District about possible metal contamination of Cedar Creek at Union Terrace and they have no documentation of it in all their testing. I will mention though that Cedar Creek has a designated usage as a High Quality Trout Stream and that it is currently not meeting that usage due to stormwater contamination and sediment buildup. It is quite apparent looking at pictures of the headwaters of Little Cedar Creek, that in its natural setting, the creek is surrounded by naturally occurring riparian buffers. In those locations, the water is documented as cleanest. As the creeks move downstream and encounter stone wall cage channels and storm water drainage the creeks become polluted. Any riparian buffer work on the creek will help ease these problems. It will not take them away entirely but it will help. New plans for storm water drainage will need to be assessed in the near future but Cedar Creek looks to have less turbid, colder days ahead.

After passing through Union Terrace, Cedar Creek encounters another mill.
At this point, once the mill stream rejoins Cedar Creek proper, the creek turns to the east and ends its journey in the Little Lehigh Creek.

There are many factors that affect Cedar Creek and this post is a preliminary discussion of them. I intend to chronicle Trout Creek, Jordan Creek and the Little Lehigh in this fashion soon and I hope to start a real discussion of the health of our waterways here.



Blogger LVCI said...

Great walk thru. I was thinking of doing this myself. Excellent idea!

That said, as you can see storm water runoff negates much of what Riparian buffers are capable of repairing. There is not a city in the world that doesn't use storm drains into local streams or the ocean. There's simply no other way.

Earlier you commented about ecosystems and wildlife. Well Geese and Ducks are part of that, but since they're on the s*** list they have been killed and/or their eggs oiled over to prevent birth. The fact is man is attempting to play God with this very ecosystem of which you speak. Ducks/geese destroyed by the hundreds pretty much sanitizes the natural environment of the area irregardless of the fact of what they may do or not do to water quality. So right now it's the popular science to destroy water fowl and promote other species man sees fit to live.

So let's be honest if this area were to be 100% natural the entire park would uncut swamp land. There's nothing naturally balanced about this ecosystem down there. Once we admit to ourselves we've tampered with this park to make it what we expect to look like, the more realistic the discussion. I still challenge someone to photo one fish in this creek.

Let's be honest, we want a park to be whatever current eco-engineering is in style and not that of nature's design. Who knows, in 10 years we'll be told the value of water fowl in nature's design.

For the record. Dorney Park used to serve fish and Peking duck on it's restaurant menu from this very creek. Occasionally a few residents used to take a few home for dinner as well back in the days.

August 13, 2009 at 12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this is my favorite post you've made so far. Great walk!

August 13, 2009 at 2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful work Andrew. The City of Allentown could do so much better for this creek.

August 14, 2009 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger Andrew Kleiner said...

Thank you Anon. I genuinely believe that the city, and the county, will do better for Cedar Creek in the near future.

August 14, 2009 at 11:24 AM  

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