This “Blue Ribbon” trout stream begins its 60.3 mile (97 km) journey in the Town of Gainesville, approximately 6 miles (9 km) south of the Town of Warsaw in Wyoming County, NY. Beginning at an elevation of 1600 ft (488 m), it flows northward through Warsaw, winding its way through the towns of Middlebury, Covington, Pavilion, Stafford and LeRoy. North of the Village of LeRoy, after a 60 foot drop over Buttermilk Falls, the creek “turns” east and continues in an easterly direction on the last part of its journey, traveling through the Town of Wheatland to end at an elevation of 512 ft (156m) at the Genesee River just east of the Village of Scottsville in Monroe County, NY.
One interesting feature of the Oatka Creek is that during low flow times it is what is called a “losing” stream. This means that portions of the creek go underground. This is evident during the summer and fall in a portion of the creek that flows through LeRoy. The Creek seems to “disappear” showing a dry bed as it approaches the Onondaga Escarpment just north of LeRoy’s Machpelah Cemetery. It stays submerged through the Buttermilk Falls area to re-emerge near the Circular Hill Road bridge (the old Perry Road bridge) a little upstream of the Oatka Fish and Game Club.
The numerous towns and villages that line the Oatka use the creek for a variety of purposes. It provides drinking water, fishing, light boating and recreation, and its picturesque quality is a great attraction. The lower part of the creek supports one of the best trout fisheries in the state, stocked from the Caledonia Fish Hatchery, the oldest fish hatchery in the western hemisphere. At the present time, these uses are not significantly limited or restricted, but occasionally the water quality or quantity will discourage a permitted or intended use. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has classified different parts of the creek to be fit for various uses according to a defined set of classifications, with the headwaters being the area with the least restricted uses.
The known pollutants of the creek are algal/weed growth, nutrients and silt/sediment. Suspected pollutants are salts, and possible ones are pathogens. Pesticides have been detected in the former water reservoir of Lake LeRoy. Known sources of pollutants are agriculture and stream bank erosion. Suspected sources are deicing practices, failing septic systems and urban run-off from population centers.
However, biological data from 2002 indicates that over a ten year period the Oatka and its tributary Spring Creek have maintained a stable abundance of pollution intolerant benthic macroinvertebrates.
There is on-going study and work being done to protect this valuable resource.