Friday, December 23, 2011

Silent Waters Goes Up and Down

We had always read that after the Silent Waters dam burst in 1903, it was never repaired.  In most places the water doesn't get anywhere near the dam. Yet here is an aerial from 1934 (courtesy of the State of Connecticut) showing a completely full reservoir. It's bigger than Hope Lake!  

Here's a close-up with the current school and dog park locations shown for orientation purposes.  You can see the water lapped right up to the dam wall, which is now a part of the Rec Path with a split rail fence to keep people from falling off. The dam is actually two dams with a break in the middle at high ground, but the total length from end to end is close to 1/3 mile. Where the spillway is shown we currently have a large pedestrian bridge serving as a scenic overlook. 

What happened to the reservoir?? From the 1965 aerial above you can see that the reservoir was nearly completely drained and was mostly marshland with some open water in the center (there is white snow and ice in the photo on the water surface).  We don't know exactly when this happened, but we can assume it was done because the water was no longer needed and the dam posed a safety hazard (in 1903 it burst and flooded out businesses downtown).

Here's another aerial, this one from 2006 (we can tell because work on the bridge abutments at the spillway can be seen in preparation for the Rec Path bridge installation in late 2006).  In this picture you can see a lot of trees in the water because when the school was built, a new weir was installed at the spillway to increase the stormwater storage capacity of Silent Waters.  That rose the level of Silent Waters a few feet and flooded a lot of trees.   Great wildlife habitat.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nells Rock in 1868

Here's an overlay of a map from 1868 on Google Earth in the Nells Rock area.   The overlay is not exact because of the scale of the old map, but it's pretty close. Hope Lake had not yet been created, and it looks like the old Nells Rock Road (previously spelled "Knells") may now be under water.  Shelton Ave was later straightened out.  Here's a test for our trail enthusiasts:  See if you can identify two old roads that have been recycled as hiking trails. First one to get it right gets one of our famous free hiking passes. (Click to enlarge).