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Location / Directions / Maps

Location: In the hamlet of Berne; town of Berne; Albany County; New York.

Maps: Google MapTopographic; Interactive map.

GPS: Parking behind the Fox Creek Market: N 42.62566, W 74.13449
Helderberg Trail bridge: N 42.62544, W 74.13386
Mill pond dam (upstream on private property): N 42.62512, W 74.13322
Downstream-most drop on Fox Creek: N 42.62671, W 74.13512

Directions: Take NY-443 W from Albany for 22 miles into the hamlet of Berne.
At the junction with NY-156 E, take a left to continue on NY-443 to cross over the creek.
Then make an immediate left into what appears to be a parking lot for the Fox Pizza Market. The back of the parking lot leads to a road that travels a few hundred feet to the Fox Creek Park parking lot.

Use Google Maps

Parking:  The parking lot is in the park past the Fox Pizza Market’s own lot. Do not park in the Fox Market’s lot.

Weather

BERNE WEATHER

Information / Accessibility / Accommodations

Number of falls: Several.

Size/Types: Small curtain-like cascades along a small stretch of the creek.

Best time to visit: Most months. Avoid dry summer days.

Flow: Moderate. It usually has some flow to it. Late summer will reveal most of the creek bed.

Waterway: This is Fox Creek according to the USGS. Google Maps mislabels it as Cobbleskill Creek (which does not exist in Albany County). It rises in the southeast part of the town of Berne and is fed by many small tributaries flowing north from the hills to the south. It flows west through the hamlet of Berne and into Schoharie County where it turns northwest, eventually emptying into Schoharie Creek at Schoharie. Schoharie Creek flows north to the Mohawk River, which then takes the water back eastward through Schenectady and into the Hudson River. The Hudson flows south to the Atlantic Ocean and New York City.

Time: 15 minutes or more.

Seasons/Hours: The neighboring park is open daylight hours.

Admission: Free.

Handicap Accessibility: The parking lot to the picnic area is accessible. This does not include decent views of the falls.

Pets: No rules are posted, but pets need to be on a leash in public.

Accommodations: Historic sites; swing set; basketball court; small pavilion; picnic tables; grills; and a small trail. Adjacent to the park is a small deli and grocer.

Fox Creek waterfall in Berne - photo by LGD
Fox Creek waterfall in Berne - photo by LGD

Description

This historic mill district in the small hamlet of Berne, New York was once the home of a prominent early-American cast steel axe factory. Now a small park provides glimpses of the backs of a few remaining mill structures and a series of small drops, from 2-4 ft in height, along a few hundred feet of Fox Creek. While nothing worth going out of your way for, it is a quick and easy stop if you are in the area (such as visiting Partridge Run).

Views can be had from the adjacent park if you scramble down to the creek bed, or from the bridge over the creek.

Fox Creek in Berne Interactive Map

History

In historical documents and maps, Berne is often referred to as Bern or Bernsville.

One of the first settlers in the town was Jacob Weidman, a miller from Berne, Switzerland. He settled with his wife and 4 sons on the banks of Fox Creek (then named Foxenkill) around 1750, and built the first grist mill that year and then a sawmill in around 1787. They were known as Weidman’s Mills.

Malachi Whipple, of Stonington, Conn., arrived in the village of Bern in 1825 and purchased the grist mill property, building a carding and fulling mill in its place. Over time, this stretch of Fox Creek took on two dams. One was where the present dam is located just east of 443, and one (now gone) that was just north of the park pavilion.

Daniel Simmons, a blacksmith from the town of Bethlehem, NY,  arrived in Berne in 1821 and opened an axe shop, producing a few axes a day. Recognized for the quality of his work, local pioneers (including Jacob Weidman and Malachi Whipple) invested in his business, resulting in the construction of the first factory on the north side of the creek (across from the present day park). The factory was powered by a triphammer, the clash of which was known to echo in the valley. Soon after, a second building, for tempering, was constructed across the creek. A third building was erected to polish and finish the axes. It later became a grist-mill. Later on, a fourth, and much larger foundry with a triphammer was built. At its height, the factory complex contained 21 forges, had 200 employees, and made about 600 axes and tools daily. It was considered the first large cast-axe manufacturing enterprise in the United States. Axes made here were sold as far as settlements had shops, and even made their way into forests in Asia and Africa. Unfortunately, a combination of location (distance from Albany and poor transportation of materials to and from that hub), rising competition, and dwindling local supply of raw materials led to the firm’s bankruptcy in 1833. Simmons moved to Cohoes and established a new axe enterprise there in 1834.

The disappearance of the axe industry in the hamlet hit associated industries hard. Wood, coal, and iron traders left; mills eventually closed, and the local economy shifted back to farming.

Berne Hamlet Historic Map
Fox Creek waterfall in Berne with old mill building - photo by LGD
A view of the old mill (Photo by LGD)

Fox Creek, Berne Media

Videos

None yet.

Contributor Photos & Art

Photos from NYFalls community member L_G_D

Photos from NYFalls community member Sawthelight

Who to Contact

Town of Berne
518-872-1448

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