Explore Wild New York

Canadaway Creek (Upper Section)

The upper section of Canadaway Creek begins as a rivulet along the northwest side of Boutwell Hill in the town of Charlotte and flows for about 7 miles before reaching the end of the stocked section, which is about a half mile upstream (i.e., south) of Arkwright Falls. Initially, the stream flows north and is typical of the hillside drainages found in this area, being quite small and fed largely by cold groundwater. Canadaway Creek remains quite small until it runs into the toe of Dibble Hill about 1,000 feet south of Bard Road and is forced to turn to the northwest. Shortly thereafter, it crosses under Griswold Road, enters the Canadaway Creek Wildlife Management Area (WMA), picks up flow from two tributaries (none of the tributaries of this stream are fishable), and becomes large enough to fish. It then flows for about 1,500 feet before crossing under Bard Road near Park Road. (The map pin is located on the DEC parking area adjacent to the remnant of Park Road.) 

Depending on the amount of recent rainfall, the section of Canadaway Creek downstream of Bard Road ranges from 10 to 20 feet in width and meanders over a bed of cobbles, gravel, and shale. The flow is generally clear and cool, and the surrounding land consists of a mix of woodlands and low gorge, with the latter becoming deeper as the stream flows generally northwestward. Within the WMA, there is limited overhanging streamside vegetation to shade the water and provide cover for fish, but large boulders and numerous piles of large woody debris create pools that provide refuge for trout. 

The section of stream that flows through the Canadaway Creek WMA is stocked annually with brown trout and rainbow trout, providing stream fishing in a remote and beautiful setting. This is generally a spring/early summer fishery, but occasionally a few trout will survive well into the summer in some of the larger pools, and I’ve seen a few of these fish while hiking here in July and August. Nevertheless, trout fishing in the WMA is largely over by late June.

While the numerous pools found in this section provide habitat mostly for stocked trout, on rare occasions wild rainbow trout are encountered. During a trout population survey conducted here in 1999, the DEC captured wild rainbow trout from at least two year classes, though no rainbows were captured during follow-up surveys conducted in 2000 and 2010. Based on these findings, the DEC has speculated that there may be limited natural reproduction of rainbow trout in this section of the stream or its tributaries. I also saw rainbows in this section around 2003 and again in 2012, well before rainbows were stocked here. 

Around 2005, while hiking along this section of Canadaway Creek in the fall, I detected the distinct salmon-like odor of steelhead. When I contacted the DEC about this, they said that no steelhead would be found that far up in the stream and that I was mistaken. However, several weeks later, an angler called me and said that he had just caught a steelhead in the same area where I had smelled them. In addition, over the years, several other anglers have told me that they have caught steelhead in this section of the stream.

Steelhead occur in large numbers in the lower section of Canadaway Creek, but I don’t see how these fish could make it over the waterfall at Webster Street in in Laona. Perhaps some anglers occasionally release the steelhead they've caught above the waterfall (this has been known to occur on several steelhead streams), and these fish then move upstream into the WMA. This would require the fish to make it over Shumla Falls, which looks doable, and Arkwright Falls, which seems unlikely, but how else would a few steelhead make their way into the upper section of Canadaway Creek? The DEC's Region 9 inland fisheries biologist, Scott Cornett, has speculated that perhaps the wild rainbow trout encountered by the DEC in 1999 are the progeny of steelhead that succeeded in making the journey. For some interesting information on the ability of steelhead to get over waterfalls, see "Sultan River Fish Passage" under Links. The article is based on a study of salmon and steelhead in the Sultan River of Washington State. Especially interesting are Tables 1, 2, and 4. 

Nearly all of the stocked section of Canadaway Creek has public access, either in the WMA, which is state property, or where the stream flows through a parcel of county property. Other than the 700-yard section of the stream that flows through the WMA south of Bard Road, the stocked section of Canadaway Creek is accessed by hiking along Park Road and then dropping down to the stream. Long ago, Park Road was drivable from Bard Road north to Ball Road, but now all but the northernmost section of the road is just a hiking trail that parallels the stocked section of the stream at distances ranging from 200 to 400 feet until it turns northward toward Ball Road.

The stocked section of Canadaway Creek can also be accessed from Park Road where it enters the WMA from the north; turn left off Ball Road and continue south on Park Road until the road is barricaded. From here you can hike down the remnant of Park Road to the stocked section of the stream, but you have to hike over half a mile before you can easily and safely access the stream.

Whether you access the stream from the north or south end of Park Road, be aware that you have to scramble down a steep hillside to get to the stream, and it seems even steeper going back up. This stream is in a very remote area, so be prepared and always carry the Ten Essentials for Hiking (see Links).

No article on Canadaway Creek would be complete without mentioning renowned artist and fly fisherman Alberto Rey. Alberto lives in Fredonia along Canadaway Creek and fishes the stream often. His love of fishing and Canadaway Creek prompted him to found the Sportfishing and Aquatic Resource Educational Programming (SAREP)/4H Youth Fly Fishing Program, which teaches local youths about fly fishing, aquatic resources, conservation, and outdoor ethics.

Over a century ago, the headwaters of Canadaway Creek held wild brook trout, but logging and adjacent agricultural practices led to their demise. But that could be changing due to the efforts of Alberto Rey. Beginning in the fall of 2006, members of his organization, now known as Children in the Stream/4H Program, began reintroducing brook trout into the upper end Canadaway Creek. For more information on Alberto Rey, the Children in the Stream/4H Program, and his brook trout stocking program, see Links


Links to associated resources (Canadaway Creek Wildlife Management Area and Canadaway Creek - Lower Section) will be added soon.

Location Map


Every fall, Alberto Rey stocks the upper end of Canadaway Creek with brook trout as part of his Children in the Stream/4H Program. After the children dump a bucket of trout into the stream, the fish don't travel more than about 20 feet (I was within 10 feet of these), cluster together in pools, and immediately face upstream. Eventually, some of these fish find their way as far downstream as Lake Erie, and a few of their offspring have turned up in some of Canadaway Creek's tributaries.
To fish most of the stocked upper section of Canadaway Creek you have to hike into a very rugged area downstream of Bard Road. This would be physically challenging for many people, but there is an alternative. The section of Canadaway Creek located immediately upstream of Bard Road, seen here in late October, can be easily accessed from the unmarked parking area on the south side of the road.
Park Road, seen here a short distance north of Bard Road. This formerly drivable road now serves as a scenic hiking trail and means for accessing Canadaway Creek. The stream is easily accessed from the trail, but you have to hike from 100 to 400 yards down to the water. Initially, the slopes are easily traversed, but they become steeper as you move downstream. About 1.3 miles downstream of Bard Road, the trail turns to the north and away from the stream.
As Canadaway Creek flows past the DEC parking area on Bard Road, it is a small, high-gradient stream with few sizable pools. But about three-quarters of a mile downstream, several small tributaries, Clinton Brook and Markum Brook (spelled Markham on some maps), add significantly to the flow, resulting in long runs and increasing numbers of pools, some of which provide habitat for trout. The section of Canadaway Creek seen here is just downstream of Clinton Brook.
Canadaway Creek, seen here well downstream of Clinton Brook. Many years ago, I saw several large trout in this section while hiking through the area. It was also in this section that I detected the distinct odor of steelhead, and I've heard reports of steelhead being caught up here. Supposedly, they can't run up this far because their passage is blocked by waterfalls in Laona and Arkwright. Perhaps some anglers transported some fish above the falls, which is known to happen elsewhere.
Arkwright Falls, seen here in mid-August. Steelhead would have to get over this waterfall to make their way into the Canadaway Creek WMA. NYFALLS.com reports a height of 30 feet for this falls, which seems a bit high, but even the nearly vertical portion of the falls looks to well exceed the 11.5-foot maximum elevation, which has been determined to be the maximum height a steelhead can get over.
When oppressive summer heat makes hiking in wide-open places uncomfortable, try creek hiking in one of western New York's numerous gorges. Shade is almost always available, and walking in the cool water is refreshing. Seen here is a group of ADK hikers I led on an outing in a county-owned section of Canadaway Creek gorge. This area is located about a mile downstream of the stocked section and can be accessed from a trail that that runs off Ball Road.

Resource Map

See Location Map (above) and Map 2 of the DEC public fishing rights maps (under Links). Note that the stocking and regulations information presented with the PFR map may be out of date. See the stocking list and regulations guide for current information.

Driving Directions


Road Access:

The section of this stream within the Canadaway Creek WMA is accessible from three parking areas along Bard Road and one poorly defined parking area on the north section of Park Road.

Boat Launch Site(s):



Fishery Management

Management Category: Stocked: From confluence with unnamed tributary 0.55 miles upstream of Arkwright Falls upstream to confluence with unnamed tributary 700 yards upstream of Griswold Road. The remainder of the stream is wild/unclassified.

Fish Species:

  • Brown Trout (stocked)
  • Brook Trout (stocked)
  • Rainbow Trout (stocked)

Stocking Information: This stream is stocked by the DEC with brown trout and rainbow trout and by Alberto Rey's program with brook trout.

Special Fishing Regulations: . None. Statewide fishing regulations apply.


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