I think if I were to describe the valley in which we live, I would say “A river runs through it.” In fact, the Blackstone River defines our valley, which is (to no one’s surprise) called “The Blackstone Valley.”
The Blackstone runs through Millbury, Northbridge, Whitinsville, Uxbridge, and Blackstone after which it crosses into Rhode Island. From Woonsocket, the river passes through the mill towns of Manville, Ashton, Lonsdale. and Central Falls before reaching Pawtucket and ultimately, the Atlantic Ocean through Narragansett Bay.
According to geologists, the Blackstone is more than 500,000,000 years old, probably the most important link in the Watershed that straddles Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It was a place of great beauty until it became the site of as many as 1000 mills and factories. The Blackstone River was known as the hardest working river in America, but also one of the dirtiest. By 1972, it was one of the most polluted rivers in the U.S.
Things began to improve after passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972. The river now is cleaner than it has been in the past 47 years. It isn’t pure yet, but it is close. There are areas in which it is safe to swim and wherever it is safe (no dams, white water, or falls), people kayak and fish for trout. It is an amazing comeback for a body of water. If you live in this valley, you love the river.
If you live in Uxbridge, you are never more than a quarter of a mile from some part of the river. Streams, rivulets, lakes, ponds, marshes — the river feeds everything, including our wells and city water. Living in the valley, you live with the river. It’s always near you. You see it in flood and in drought, in every season.