Thursday, November 21, 2013

Bridge Count

It is calm and sunny over the East River and it is nothing short of a perfect day to sit in a canoe in the chill of the morning and drink a cup of coffee.

A prime bird observation location, I stay alert and paddle with reasonable quietness, but it is not until I pass the railroad bridge, the first of the five bridges, that I see a bird.  A solitary greater yellow legs stops its incessant head bobbing and flies upstream, crossing the river as it goes.  When I get near again, it gets up and flies off back behind me.  That was nearly a mile of water before seeing the first bird...quite a difference from summer.

After the highway bridge (the third bridge), I hear a kingfisher and spot a whitetail deer at the waters edge near a pair of American black ducks.  Only then do I see the kingfisher.  Now is the proper time for that cup of coffee.

 A few hundred yards past the fourth bridge, the stone arch one, I turn off the river into a meandering channel that leads to a collapsed dam that, some hundred and fifty years ago, powered a simple up and down sawmill.

the left half of the dam can been seen in the distance

Back here, in the hollow, weak fragmented sheets of ice have formed, but the canoe slices through without resistance and yields only the sound of ice breaking against the hull.  I get out and explore the site.

looking down into the breach
I'm guessing that the mill was powered by an undershot water wheel.  It is a low efficiency design, but one that doesn't require a pond level that is above the wheel.  In the above photo, a channel formed by several long rectangular boulders can be seen.  When the dam was whole, this would have formed a "pipe" near the bottom of the dam and millpond (the output end is blocked by a large boulder that was part of the dam at one time).  The nearest long boulder is about six feet long.  The edge of a rectangular exit pool can be seen on the left, where I think that the wheel would have been positioned.  There's a pretty decent sized valley behind the dam and I suppose that a depth of ten feet or so could have been contained giving the mill a fair amount of uninterrupted power, as long as it was used carefully.  As low-tech as it all is, it is still an impressive amount of earth and stone work.

I continue...

The Foote Bridge

The fifth bridge is the Foote Bridge.  I gather that there has been a bridge at this location for quite some time.  The current bridge is modern, built on less than modern foundations.  It is essentially a private bridge although hikers use it to access trails in the area.  It is also the point where the East River becomes too shallow to paddle except at the peak of high tide, when one can go another half mile up to the sixth bridge before grounding out, period.

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