Fall Kill Creek

By Arlo Lennert, Urban Studies, Class of 2025.

Map of the Fall Kill Creek in Poughkeepsie (Northside Connected)

The Fall Kill Creek is a 38-mile-long creek that begins in Clinton, New York, passes through the North Side of Poughkeepsie and finally joins the Hudson River near the train station. The northern areas of the creek are marshy, while the area within the city is contained and channelized by stone walls. After Franklin Roosevelt took office in 1933, the Works Progress Administration jobs eased unemployment in his home county. This program included the building of walls along the Fall Kill, improving sewage systems, and other general construction projects.

Earlier in Poughkeepsie’s history, the Fall Kill helped prevent disaster, such as the big fire of 1836. In this instance, the fire department used water supplied by Fall Kill Creek from the city’s cistern, located in what is now College Hill Park. In the 19th century, the Fall Kill was essential for industrial work, such as at the Innis Dye Works. In addition, the creek powered mills that ground corn and wheat, along with producing other manufactured goods. However, the building of the Poughkeepsie Railroad Bridge (later known as the Walkway over the Hudson) in the 1880s meant that river trade decreased and mills along the Fall Kill closed. Thus, the creek has become largely forgotten and built around. Many buildings in the neighborhood near the Walkway Over the Hudson and the Children’s Museum have the Fall Kill flowing through their backyard. This poses problems after heavy rains. For example, in 2011 after Hurricane Irene, many of the houses along the creek flooded due to the deluge of rain. 

A woman being pulled in a canoe along a flooded street (“The Aftermath of Irene”)

Although the Fall Kill is considered suitable for fishing by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the creek commonly receives trash and generally becomes polluted. With this in mind, groups like the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (LWRP) and MASS Design Group have started working with community members to reduce pollution. Additionally, MASS Design Group has begun working with the city to reimagine and redesign the area surrounding the Fall Kill. This would include public-use areas and provide educational opportunities. There is ongoing work already underway to create a walkway along the Fall Kill in partnership with MASS Design, although there have been issues regarding property lines and the Fall Kill. Since the creek is so integrated into the community, it is often forgotten despite its potential.

An additional victim of the Fall Kill was the flooding of the Family Partnership Center in 2014. The Center is located along the Fall Kill on North Hamilton Street. This is what originally prompted the City of Poughkeepsie to begin working with MASS Design Group. The city worked with both the design group and the local waterfront revitalization group to reimagine the area surrounding the Family Partnership Center, as noted above. 

Volunteers cleaning the creek (“Fall Kill Creek”)

The local waterfront revitalization program has worked with the city since 1999 in hopes of increasing public access, sustainability, mitigating flooding, and improving water quality. The program aims to redevelop six key locations along the waterfront to create a continuous greenway trail and generally increase industry and tourism in Poughkeepsie. The planning process is dependent on the involvement of the public and public outreach. When the project began in late 2018, plans anticipated that it would take approximately 12 months to complete, but subsequently, the project stalled.

While the work with the city has come to a standstill, community members have taken matters into their own hands. The Northside Connected, which works in conjunction with Scenic Hudson, is a grassroots community organization that is working to create stronger and safer communities. The organization works to connect people living along the Fall Kill with its history, work to clean the area, and connect community members’ concerns with the city. Since the creek affects so many, Northside Connected strives to illuminate the creek’s past, present, and future.

Fall Kill Creek’s ecological footprint on the North Side of Poughkeepsie, including the proposed greenway (Northside Community Greenway)

The Fall Kill Creek stands as a testament to Poughkeepsie’s rich history and its enduring significance in shaping the community. The creek has witnessed transformative changes over time, including challenges such as pollution and flooding. The commitment to revitalize the Fall Kill is evident through the collaborative efforts of organizations like Northside Connected, the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, and MASS Design Group. While some projects with the city may have encountered obstacles, the grassroots efforts to preserve, clean, and reconnect with the creek’s history shows the resilience of the community. As the city strives to create a greenway trail, enhance public access, and mitigate flooding, the Fall Kill remains not only a symbol of the past but also a vibrant part of the city’s future.

Rendering of potential public use along the Fall Kill (MASS Design Group).

Getting There:

The Fall Kill flows primarily through the northern part of the city and town of Poughkeepsie. There are many areas where you can observe the Fall Kill, such as along Davies Place, above the Poughkeepsie Train Station. This is also where the historic Innis Dye Works building is located, across the street from the Hudson Discovery Museum. If you visit the Fall Kill after heavy rain or spring runoff, you will see its true might as it rushes past you to the Hudson. 

To learn more:

City of Poughkeepsie. Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, last accessed Dec. 1, 2023.

Dutchess County, Repair Work on Fallkill Dam to Begin this Month,” June 20, 2023.

Flad, Harvey K., and Clyde Griffen. Main Street to Mainframes: Landscape and Social Change in Poughkeepsie. Albany: SUNY Press, 2009, pp. 27-43, 151-168. 

MASS Design, Fall Kill, last accessed Dec. 1, 2023.

Mid Hudson News, “Bipartisan bill to protect local creeks still flowing,” May 30, 2021.

Northside Connected, Poughkeepsie Community Page, last accessed Dec. 1, 2023.

Wall Street Journal. “The Aftermath of Irene,” Aug. 29, 2011

Northside Connected

New Community Resource in Poughkeepsie

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *