BEFORE THE FALL

WordPress WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: WAITING

Above and into the falls

We live in a region of rivers and dams. Back when this country was more a hope than a reality, this was the river where America’s transition to industrialization began.

According to the National Parks guide:


“The Blackstone River Valley of Massachusetts and Rhode Island is the “Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution,” the place where America made the transformation from Farm to Factory. America’s first textile mill could have been built along practically any river on the eastern seaboard, but in 1790 the forces of capital, ingenuity, mechanical know-how and skilled labor came together at Pawtucket, Rhode Island where the Blackstone River provided the power that kicked off America’s drive to industrialization.”


It’s easy to see our history when you live in the Blackstone Valley. There were 46 dams on the Blackstone River. There are some fewer now. They are trying to remove dams and let the river run freely. But wherever you see a dam, there was a mill, a factory, or both at that turning of the river.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Below the falls

The soil supporting these dams is terminally hazardous. Packed behind the dams, it can’t spread its poison downstream. Allowed to run into the rivers, it could easily poison the river that was saved from (and is still being saved from) some of the worst pollution anywhere in the world. In the mid 1974, the Blackstone was considered one of the three most polluted rivers in the U.S. Today, it’s a living river filled with birds and fish and even some humans enjoying its waters.

Waiting on the Mumford River in Uxbridge

Most of the remaining dams will stay where they are. The danger to the environment that would come with removing them is incalculable. Thus we enjoy the beauty of the dams. Swans, geese, ducks, divers and the occasional beavers enjoy the calm waters. While swimming is still forbidden both because of the still somewhat polluted water and the dangerous currents in the river, trout breed there and the river is open for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing along many banks.

Waiting and the rush

All the dams were built between 1789 and the early 1900s. Each dam is unique to its place on the river and built of natural local stone.

The pool that forms in the pond before the waterfall is always as still as a glass mirror. It’s remarkable how clear and shiny that water is. Barely a ripple to announce the imminent falling of water over a dam that may be just inches away.

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017

39 thoughts on “BEFORE THE FALL

    • It is mostly reclaimed. I’m not sure it will ever be entirely fixed. SO much poison is sunk behind those dams and in the soil along the river. This is super Fund stuff. Fortunately, everyone knows about it, so you don’t see housing along the river. People know. You don’t even see businesses. No one wants to dig in that dirt. But the wildlife is coming back and if we don’t mess with the river too much, I think it will get 90% of the way home.

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        • Sometimes, when the ground is so seriously poisoned, you can’t get to 100%. It IS important to understand when you’ve done as much as you can. They really wanted to remove this dam, but they had to balance the problems it would cause against the gains.

          The poison won. It’s amazing how poisonous the stuff they used in tanning and dyes has turned out to be. Every bit as lethal as the more chemical stuff we use these days.

          Liked by 1 person

    • It seems to be a story most people haven’t heard. I’ve listened to a lot of people from the south complain about how the mills were stolen and sent to the far east. Well, they stole them FIRST from New England and although it makes for fewer jobs, it also makes for far less hazardous water and soil. Actually, New England has had very low employment since the mills left. That was the end of this regions wealthy period.

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        • The original 13 colonies have a little more history — or at least, American history — than the other states. New England was settled very early, as was Virginia. We probably have more state/commonwealth history than other states. I’ve learned a lot living here. I have a lot more to learn.

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    • This was almost 200 years of factories and mills with NO restrictions on waste or emissions. Until they all stated moving south around the 1920s, most of America’s milled, dyed, and woven stuff came from here or another big river north of here. They just dumped everything into the river and earth. It was ugly.

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        • We are doing pretty well here in Massachusetts. I think most of New England is pretty down with reclaiming the mess our early mills and factories left behind. We learned that lesson early, before anyone else. Meanwhile, no one is interested in building here now. We don’t have to worry about turning down big new projects. All we have are medical facilities, universities, and high tech. Mostly, they don’t pollute. Much.

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    • They are pretty. Pity about all the pollution that seems to come with them. That’s why there are no lovely homes along the river: the ground is hazardous and no one who knows the area would take that risk. The odds are pretty good everyone living there would get sick. Quickly. So it remains just pretty. I like the prettiness and am glad they aren’t building there.

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  1. Pingback: WPC: Waiting | Lillie-Put

  2. Beautiful scenery, and a wonderful story of reclamation of polluted water. There are efforts to destroy several of California’s large dams — and now I know another reason not to do that! One of the by-products of wildfires here is the silting of dammed lakes, along with the erosion of all those chemicals used to put out the fire, which end up in the lake along with the silt!

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    • This is one of the things I learned from the National Parks people who control our region. If you have questions, they are very good at answering them. I didn’t realize either until I asked how much poisonous earth was backed up into those dams. Apparently a LOT. Tons and tons of hazardous earth is kept out of our waters by the dams. SO. The dams stay.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely Photos’ Marilyn, and a (sort of) happy ending story to boot! 🙂

    I saw your Blackstone Dam on Google Earth, looks a nice place for a ramble.-Your pics do it better justice!

    love

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  4. Pingback: Waiting: seals | What's (in) the picture?

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