The Hoosic River is the major river draining the northern Berkshires. The North Branch of the Hoosic River flows south from Readsboro, VT to North Adams, MA where it joins the South Branch that originates in Lanesborough, MA. The Hoosic then flows west through Williamstown, MA, north into Pownal, VT and then north and west through eastern New York, entering the Hudson River at Stillwater, NY.
The agricultural and timbering of the Hoosic River watershed in the 19th and 20th centuries contributed to the frequent flooding of the adjacent low-lying areas, especially in the first half of the 20th Century. An engineering attempt to reduce property damage within the urbanized portion of the basin, led to the US Army Corps of Engineers constructing a series of flood control chutes in Adams and North Adams, MA.
In Williamstown the Hoosic River is relatively free to overflow its banks and periodically inundate low-lying areas lower than 600’ in elevation. While Williams College converted some of the floodplain to create first a College Farm and then athletic fields in the 19th and 20th centuries, some of the floodplain biotic communities persist. The vegetation consists of plants that are adapted to both periodic inundation as well as burial by the sediments that are brought in with the floodwaters. Prior to the Dutch Elm Disease epidemic of the 1950s-1970s, American elms dominated these forests, along with willows and sycamore. Most of the elms are now dead, having been replaced by box elder.