Many of the names and some of the descriptions in this blog have been changed to protect the guilty.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Windsor Locks Canal Trail, Part 2

So here we are at the Windsor Locks end of the canal.

Check out the old swing bridge.

I guess it's probably the remains of this swing bridge pictured in 1909 below.  The Montgomery Mill at the end of the trail is pictured in the background.

The Montgomery Mill was a thread and yarn factory that was established in 1891, had some additions built over the years, and closed in 1989.

I took some shots of building's the exterior, including the “Hubcap Wall.”

The old mill is on the National Register of Historic Places, but three fires, including this whopper in 2006, have pretty much rendered the building permanently abandoned.

It is interesting to ride by the building and imagine what it must look like inside. Whoops, imagine no longer, because this photographer got in there in 2013:

This one is entitled “Superman Entered Here” LOL:

Here is a 100-year-old machine in the mill pictured just after the place closed in ’89.

Time to turn around on my bike and head back. Can I reiterate that this ride is absolutely stunning at around sunset?

Here we are, back at the Suffield lock. The rocky bank in the water is part of the long-breached Enfield Dam that once diverted water into the canal on the left. In the background is the 190 bridge.

In June of 1982, a bunch of guys I knew from Forest Park built a 20-foot-long raft and attempted to ride it on the river from Longmeadow to Long Island Sound. However, they didn’t know about the Enfield rapids. After they hit what remained of the dam, the raft broke up, and they were forced to swim to the shore, losing their camping gear and almost their lives. Their adventure was reported in the Springfield newspapers. The reporter interviewed one of their fathers, who mentioned something about the kids trying to be Huckleberry Finn, but they didn't know about the dam.

The dam was a wooden crib structure (consisting of criss-crossed logs with rock fill) that really started falling apart in the 1970s, but it was still about six feet high when their raft went over the waterfall. This is the dam in a 1900 photo:

Here is is in 1908:

Here is is from the Enfield side in 1900:

The Enfield Rapids, or Enfield Falls, have been the stuff of legend. Boats heading north could avoid the rough stuff and safely enter the canal and continue to the area of South Hadley Falls, where another canal allowed them to bypass this waterfall. It seems many have met their maker on this Enfield stretch, including 23-year-old Elijah Fish, who drowned on the falls on October 19, 1805, along with Hewlett Stockwell, when their small skiff overturned. Fish's fate is immortalized on his gravestone in Enfield's King Street Cemetery:

The passage at the bottom of the stone reads:

Death, like an overflowing stream,
Sweeps us away; our life’s a dream,

An empty tale, a morning flow’r,
Cut down and withered in an hour.

The passage was taken from a 1719 poem by Isaac Watts. Death sweeps us away indeed.

This is from the 2006 book Enfield, Connecticut Carved in Stone by Bob Clark:

The First Century of the History of Springfield, a book written in 1817 by Henry M. Burt, lists Abraham Munden drowning at Enfield Falls in 1644 and William Jess doing the same in 1645:

Munden's daughter, Mary got into trouble in Northampton for "wearing silk, and that in a flaunting manner" in 1676. It was speculated that her outrageous behavior was possibly brought on by her father's drowning. Fortunately, she redeemed herself by obtaining a husband the following year: 

Anyway, the dam was first breached in 1977, the same year that boat traffic through the canal was banned. There have been at least five major breaches since the 1980s, and now the dam is pretty much caput. For awhile there had been a movement afloat (pun intended) to rebuild the dam to make it safer for boating (boats scrape the bottom there between 25 to 30 times a week in the summer). The fishermen who cast their lines around there certainly wouldn't mind this: the shad that swim upstream used to be impeded by the Enfield Dam and were easily caught. Now the fish can make it all the way to the Holyoke Dam, so fishermen now head to Holyoke to catch them.

Some kayakers also recall shooting the rapids in the 1970s, and then paddling up the canal for repeated runs down the Connecticut. This stopped, of course in 1977. They'd love to be able to do this again, but they're not holding their breath, because it's unlikely that the dam will be rebuilt.

Let’s continue back to the parking area, but go past it for the last leg: under the 190 bridge…

And then the loop onto the bridge for the perfect sunset shot from the middle facing north:

This is facing south:

The path is open from April 1 to November 15 (you don't have much time left this fall), and in the spring keep in mind the potential ban on pedestrians and bicyclists because of eagle nesting, which will limit your viewing in the southern portion.

So check it out! You’ll be in good company: Charles Dickens passed through the canal on a small steamer from Springfield to Hartford on February 7, 1842 and described the trip in his American Notes.

Wisely, his boat took a right into the canal instead of going right into the Enfield rapids like my friends.

Read The Windsor Locks Canal Trail, Part 1.