Goodnow Flow: a private Newcomb lake

Origins of the Goodnow Flow, a private man-made lake

The Goodnow Flow runs roughly east -west.  It is defined by dams at each end, both owned by the Goodnow Flow Association (GFA) as a collective of the lot owners around the Lake. I’m a GFA member since I’m a property owner at the Flow but this is not a GFA page/site.

The lake area is generally quoted at 340 acres, I figure it at about 5 miles long. Generally the lake is shallow – so shallow that for some folks there are areas of mud by their Lots out of season when the level is deliberately dropped about 3ft.

Goodnow Flow newcomb on lake

The max depth of the flow is about 17ft (a number from someone’s fish finder sonar) in the submerged river channel (south side about by the east most island)   Water depths at specific locations are something to discuss when viewing properties around the flow, that and the nature of the bottom  which varies with location from rocky to sandy to muddy.

If you look at historical  US geologic service maps  you can see the Goodnow River simply ran through a shallow valley.  Its called the Flow as it originated as a Flowage for logging – the original iterations of the easterly dam would be opened and then the logs would be flushed or ‘driven’ downstream to the Glens Falls  mills of the Finch-Pruyn company.

Click the the image thumbnails to get full size versions in a light-box

Dams creating the Goodnow flow

The ends of the Flow are defined by dams.  The one to the east creates the Flow in what was a valley of the Goodnow river.  The one to the west, Shadow Dam, creates Shadow Pond.  The Lot owners around 2016 had the main easterly dam and spillway refurbished.  This past year (2022) they closed on a land parcel up to Shadow Dam. That purchase makes general sense since the dirt track at the west end of the flow runs over the dam and this purchase (and one more) blocks public access to the flow, cementing its private nature. That process of purchasing land held by the ADK Nature Conservancy was running for a decade or so: the approval by Lot owners to buy preceded me closing on a Lot and cabin in late 2013. Those were Finch-Pruyn lands and this is a part that did not finish up held by NY State.

The Shadow Dam to the West of the Goodnow Flow, Newcomb NY

You can see from the USGS maps that the Shadow Dam arrived much later than the main Dam to the east. I don’t think it was around when Finch were doing log-drives down the Goodnow and Hudson rivers.

I have forestry maps scans from the 1920s & 1930’s (found rolled up in my boat house – the original owner of my Lot, Woody Olmsted was a Finch-Pruyn Forestry manager), and you can see the land that is now Shadow Pond was a marshy wetland area – I’m guessing (and trying to read the code on the maps) this was similar to the alder scrub woodland and marsh directly below the Shadow dam in the Flow (yup- we bought a bunch of swamp along with the Shadow Dam).

Finch-Pruyn were going to create another lakeside subdivision around shadow pond but early on 7 October 1983 there was a magnitude 5.1 earthquake which damaged shadow dam (I’m still hoping to find a picture) and they dropped the idea.  There is spillway in the Shadow Dam but its now most always high & dry since a culvert was installed at the south side of the dam at a lower level after the tremblor. Keeping water levels in Shadow Pond low, especially with the culvert cleared, presumably reduces stress on the back side of the Shadow Dam.

I’m anticipating neither another earthquake nor a massive failure of Shadow Dam for any reason, since generally whats standing tends to stay that way, but to my eye the Shadow Dam is higher and longer than the main dam to the east. I keep noting on my FB pages and in meetings that, in the absence of other information, Flow Lot owners are now presumably collectively responsible for the upkeep of the westerly Shadow Dam.  A weird aspect there is that the Shadow Pond behind the westerly Shadow Dam is State land – the specific obligations of owners on each side of the dam are not clear to me and, prior to the closing on Shadow dam parcels at the Flow, the chair of the GFA (owners club) didn’t  want to engage on the topic at board meetings, fobbing me off with comments that members approved this purchase.

The main Goodnow Flow dam at the east end

The previous iteration of the old spillway in the main (east) dam looked similar to the largely disused Shadow Dam spillway. It was pretty decrepit at the time of replacement and the dam itself had some sink holes.  The dam is costing each lot owner ~$600 a year (a 15 year loan running through ~2035) but it was a necessary expense, and presumably it will comply with NY regs for 50 years or so. The dam was upgraded by ‘grouting’, injecting concrete in some areas, while the actual spillway is new.  Two gates in the spillway facilitate dropping water levels about 3 ft. during winter (supposedly to avoid flooding around the lake), with gates full up summer storm waters will also flow through a central ‘window’.  There is a problem with one of the gate mechanisms (built into the concrete structure) which is maybe out of line and stiff – various fixes have so far been unsuccessful. The GFA filed a lawsuit over this which was settled out of court for an unknown amount (I’m waiting to see a bump in the GFA balance sheet to get a feel for the number).

Water levels at the Goodnow Flow

Two gates in the main, easterly, spillway facilitate dropping water levels about 3 ft during winter. The water level is stepwise dropped starting around Columbus Day and restored at some point in May before the season starts at Memorial Day weekend.  The season set by Adirondack weather is ending around Columbus day, but Columbus Day can be  a couple of weeks before things are  turning grey.  One reason is that the holiday as the second Monday in October moves around a bit and there is also a chance for an ‘Indian summer’ event some years.  I’ve never figured the trigger for raising the gates. Its likely partly set by the last ice exiting the lake (which varies) and the level needs to be on the way up before hatchery trout are added a weekend or so before Memorial Day.

The main sources of water for the flow are presumably the Goodnow River coming in from the North and the West Branch of the Goodnow River which feeds Shadow Pond. Plus there is water from streams like the one running through my Lot. Keeping water levels in Shadow Pond low , especially, with the culvert cleared presumably reduces stress on the Shadow Dam, but I think slow & reduced release of storm water from Shadow Pond smooths fluctuation in the Goodnow Flow lake level after storms, reducing the rate at which the main easterly dam has to dump water and the possibility of lake-shore flooding. One example of that buffering effect was the time a few years ago when the water level popped and there was outflow at the old spillway as the capacity of a semi-blocked culvert was exceeded.

The Goodnow Flow Association

The GFA is registered as a 501 c7 non-profit hunting and fishing. The GFA is NOT, upfront, a Home owners Association. That’s something to remember if the GFA tries to impose new regulations.  About 30% of the lots, checking town tax records, seem to be assigned to trusts.  Multiple board members have lots assigned to trusts.  I and others point to the bylaws that say that only ‘natural persons’ can be full members and only full members can be board members (entities like trusts were presumably expected to be non-voting dues paying associate members).  Those bylaws need to be updated in my opinion – a whole bunch of prior board decisions might get overturned if that voting ownership issue was recognized and implemented. There are other inconsistencies in the bylaws resulting from how the GFA developed from a non-obligatory club to something more formal. Sometimes there seems to be regulatory-creep – in the rhetoric if not in actuality – for example I see in a FAQs sheet that GFA stickers must be displayed on vehicles ….. not something I’m going routinely to do accessing my cabin off town blacktop. The FAQs specify ‘no premises may be used for commercial purposes’ which I find iffy since the bylaws (Article VIII section 7) of the association specify no commercial activity on the lands/leases of the GFA.  Anyway what is commercial activity – I read that and visualize toiling in the primary industry world of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged,  circa 1955 rather than information based industry that is definitely supported by the available fiberoptic internet service.

The GFA as owner of the lakebed claims jurisdiction up to the highwater mark. That sounds straightforward from legal stuff of court cases but is maybe less so when you realize the current summer water levels (not getting snarky over summer vs winter) are not reflective of the past: at times the water levels have been higher to a degree where in the logging days my ‘yard’ around the cabin and the cutting for the stream were under water.  More relevantly the doors at the back of my shed/backhouse opens onto what is now a dry basin area where pines grew and died of disease but once must have been under water in the 1950’s.  This stuff was built by Woody Olmsted who laid out the lots across the subdivision and owned my lot.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for trying to shed more light on our beautiful Flow, and to create genuine transparency.

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