What the Hurricane Did

Where the Dam Used to Be

I came back to Pittsburgh for the start of the school year on Friday, August 26th, and Hurricane Irene hit Massachusetts two days later. Whereas wind damage wasn’t as heinous as expected, rain caused water levels to rise to record heights. I came back to Mass to visit the following weekend. Nearly all the shrubs along the banks of the Konkapot River behind our house had been washed away.Up the road,  a hundred-plus year old damn blew out. It had created an approximately 20 foot drop, made of huge boulders. The water forced through, and resulted in a precipitous drop in the water level up stream, revealing banks and drastically changing the course of the river.

Old Barn Beam

The dam had been part of one of the many old paper or saw mills that used to be along the Konkapot. The drop in the river revealed all sorts of treasures that had been submerged since the dam was put in, including an old square wooden pipe (still weighted with boulders to keep it submerged), old barn beams, leather straps and water wheels from the mills, chunks of slag (some other kind of industry happening up river?), broken pottery, bones, glass, metal, a rubber boot.

Wooden Pipe, Revealed

Most interestingly, with the banks revealed it was clear to see that it wasn’t soil that the river had been running through for the past century or so, but sawdust. Layers and layers of this pulp could be seen making up the cross section of the banks. All along the shores of the river, people had been walking on, plants had grown up through this mill dust. It will be interesting to see how quickly it erodes, how much the river will change its course within the next few years. Along the edges of the river I could make out tree stumps that had been submerged for over a century, so quickly smothered with sawdust and sediment that the remained preserved beneath the surface of the water.

Previously Submerged Stump

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