The Blackstone River Historic Corridor is almost a national park. It would be a national park, but a lot of people already live here in Massachusetts and in Rhode Island. The Valley runs all the way down from the hills of Worcester, across the Blackstone Valley in Massachusetts into the Blackstone Valley in Rhode island until the river empties out into Narraganset Bay via the Seekonk River — after Pawtucket Falls in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
In 1990, the Blackstone River was characterized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as “the most polluted river in the country with respect to toxic sediments.” Look how far we’ve come in improving the river! It’s not perfect, but forty-one years later, you can swim in it and trout swim there. That’s no small thing.
The river is formed in Worcester, Massachusetts by the confluence of the Middle River and Mill Brook. From there, it follows a rough southeast course through Millbury, Sutton, Grafton, Northbridge, Uxbridge, Millville, and Blackstone.
It then continues into Rhode Island. When the Blackstone reaches Pawtucket Falls, it becomes tidal and flows into the Seekonk River north of Providence. Other tributaries join the Blackstone along the way, such as the West and Mumford River, at Uxbridge, and the Branch River in North Smithfield, Rhode Island.
Finding this part of it was Kaity’s idea. She finds these places and then we have to figure out how to actually get there. Considering this place is just a couple of miles from home, how hard could it be to find?
It’s tricky. It’s not shown on the GPS or on the telephone’s GPS. But it is there. You’d think a dam and waterfall this big wouldn’t be so hard to find, but we aren’t the world’s best navigators under any circumstances. Before this was a lovely park, it was a huge factory that tanned hides for leather. The earth that supports the dam is deeply hazardous and they won’t take down the dam because it would release all that evil soil. As long as it’s supporting the dam, that earth is buried and safe, but it can’t be released.
This kind of problem is true of all the dams along the Blackstone. We got rid of the pollution — to a point — but the hazardous stuff has to go somewhere. We don’t have anywhere safe to put it, so sometimes, you just have to leave it in places. As long as you don’t release it, it won’t hurt anyone. Unfortunately, it’s not a permanent solution, but it’s the only one we’ve got.
This is one of the many parks which are part of the Blackstone Valley Historic Corridor. It’s off Route 122, but down a small dirt road marked “private.” This probably means that Massachusetts and the town of Blackstone are not taking responsibility for its maintenance.
You could tell pretty quickly the road belongs to no one. Unpaved. Not even level gravel, but plain old-fashioned dirt. It’s full of ruts too, yet it leads to a lovely finished park with one of the river’s larger dams. There’s a modest parking lot with stone benches and walking trails. But you have to find it first.
We found it. Eventually. I’m not sure we’ll ever find it again. It’s off a normal (not main, but paved) road onto a dirt road then around a few odd bends and suddenly, there’s a four-car parking lot. Voila! You can hear it before you see it and you realize why it’s called Roaring Dam. It’s loud.
When the leaves changes, this little area will glow. A couple of weeks from now, the world will look entirely different.