National Geographic : 1996 Mar
r-. VERETT NACK NOSED his skiff into RamsHorn Creek, south of Catskill, a few minutes before the autumn dusk. As we made the first bend of the snakelike estuary, the brush drew close and the twinkling lights along the river disappeared. RamsHorn is primeval, a northern version of the bayou. Decaying tree trunks, beaver dams, and wild rice line its banks. Of all the footprints in the mud, none is the shape of a shoe. Nack, a burly fisherman of 67, knows the Hudson River as well as most of us know our kitchen tables. As I leaned against a bait bin in the bow, he described the duck and muskrat along the creek and the way the swampy banks changed shape over the years. When the sky had darkened to a faint violet, we turned. We'd gone as far as the tide let us. "It's a world apart," Nack called above the quickened groan of his outboard as we eased back into the wide river. "There's no place along the Hudson really like it." During the time I explored the Hudson's 315 miles, from its source in the Adirondacks to New York Harbor, RamsHorn's silent wil derness was one of the few places I saw that wasn't a collaboration between man and nature. The long human partnership with the Hudson has ebbed and flowed just as the tide does as far as Troy. Yet to travel this river is to discover how one-sided the partnership has been, how much a great waterway has been ignored-or abused. But a remarkable transformation is taking place. People are starting to think of the Hud son Valley as a region again, something shared. They're realizing that Yonkers, Mechanicville, and Saratoga Springs have something-call it public space, call it com munity-in common. And they're rediscov ering places like RamsHorn Creek, whose Contract photographer MELISSA FARLOW and her husband, Randy Olson, covered our national parks for the October 1994 issue. PATRICK SMITH'S arti cle on inner Japan appeared in the September 1994 GEOGRAPHIC. While writing this story, he lived in the gate cottage of an old Hudson River estate.