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Engineering and Wilderness

Happy New Year!  I was finally able to return to the Quabbin Reservoir today, after quite an absence due to other obligations.  I’m focusing at the moment on the structures that cut through the Swift River Valley to create the Reservoir and all of the additional work that went along with that massive undertaking.  On the south end of the Reservoir is Quabbin Park, where the most obvious artifacts of the imprint of the Commonwealth can be seen.  The dams, the buildings, parking lots, etc.  The Quabbin is not the largest watershed in New England..  That distinction belongs to the Connecticut River watershed.  Nevertheless, it may be the most important.  But it is hard to get one’s arms around the all that was done to create this large body of naturally filtered drinking water, and of course, all that as changed and destroyed in the process.  The work began in earnest just over 75 years ago.


The Winsor Dam is one of two primary structures holding back the water.  What is the difference between a dam and a dike?  A dam has a spillway to let water flow through.  This particular spillway, when the water is high enough, lets what remains of the Swift River continue it’s journey.  However, the water is not high at this point and as such, there is no spill.  I find that gives one the opportunity to focus on the structure itself.


These intrusions into the landscape over time create an new kind of beauty, a new kind of landscape after a time.


Let’s hope 2014 is a good year for everyone.

Thanks for the Water

Happy Thanksgiving to those in the U.S.  It has been a tumultuous and difficult year in some ways, but we seem to be making it through.  It has been dry here, in response, in part, to our changing climate.  However, we had a beneficial day long recently which suggested that the water would be flowing, and indeed, it was.  We made our way to the Swift River Reservation, a wonderful and important property owned by the Trustees of Reservations, in Petersham, Massachusetts.   How important?  A good deal of the water that flows into the Quabbin Reservoir runs by this point.  The Quabbin Reservoir supplies the drinking water for about two million citizens of eastern Massachusetts.  It is essential to their, our, well being. The Eastern Branch of the Swift River dumps into Connors Pond, and then moves south into the Reservoir.  It is just off Route 122.  When we got there, we found an amazing cornucopia of running water, reflections, forests and ice cycle structures.  Like so many great but intimate locations, it was too much of a good thing.  It is eye candy if you’re just looking. Not so much if you’re trying to make a good photograph.


You can see the water flowing over a “dam” of sorts, as it is leaving the Pond.  The reflections were wonderful, but difficult to position.  You might try standing on your head to view this one.  The basic problem is that the forest surrounding the flowing water creates a massive set of distractions.  The only approach that, sometimes, thankfully works, is to isolate interesting components of the scene with a longer lens.  That was more satisfying.


I am always amazed at how little chunks of ice debris can withstand the onslaught of a river.  These two are gallantly fighting on.  I am using a longer exposure here to capture the movement of the water.


The longer exposures reveal patterns of water flow as the water moves through the rocks and mud. These are patterns that like so much of nature are often invisible to us, unless we care to look a little harder.  You may learn something if you do, however.  For starters, it’s a lot of little things that matter.  This place, though and our water, add up to something big, for which we should be quite thankful.  In many parts of the world people would die for this stuff.  We are exceedingly lucky.