Biking the Streets of Newton; All of the Streets

Early in 2015 I decided to get back in the saddle and ride my bike more often. Since then, I have managed to tuck a few feats into my jersey pocket. One of those was biking the streets of Newton. ALL of the streets of Newton.

strava heatmap

This feat began with two things.

1. Strava. A fellow member of my PMC bike team showed me the Strava app to track my rides. One of Strava’s features was a heat map that tracked the routes I biked.

2. Bike Commuting. To keep my bike commute more interesting I began riding different routes. I thought it was a good idea to see the conditions: traffic, road surface, lighting, distance, ease of crossing, etc.

With those two combined, I was painting pictures of my bike routes through Newton, Brookline, Boston, Watertown, and Cambridge.

I don’t remember when it happened, but at some point I noticed that I could not only fill in streets, but could fill in street grids.

Then my habit of making the insignificant into the significant kicked in. I really wanted to cover all of the streets of Newton with my bike trails. I made it significant. At least for me

This past weekend I finished the task. (See below)

strava heatmap

One of the things I discovered was that Newton has lots of stubby dead end streets. Land is very valuable in the city, so carving out a few lots can be very lucrative. That has clearly happened over the years. Trying to get my bike on to all of those stubby streets was time consuming.

A surprising thing I discovered was how many dirt roads there are in Newton. I didn’t expect so much poor infrastructure in an affluent suburb like Newton. However, all, or at least nearly all, of those dirt roads were private ways and/or dead ends. I would guess carving out those few lucrative lots did not extend to building city-worthy roads.

I saw lots of redevelopment in Newton. Buildable land in the city is expensive. The quickly and cheaply built post-war houses are an endangered species. In many neighborhoods, it’s easy to spot which houses are being targeted by developers for whenever the current owner decides to sell. Large houses loom over the smaller post-war ranches.

It was great to see the diversity of Newton. There is a wide range of housing, neighborhoods and settings.

It’s easy to get lost in Waban. That was one of the last sections for me to complete. I kept missing unridden streets, as the curvy roads twisted and turned unexpectedly.

Was it worth it?

Yes. The reward was merely self-satisfaction from completing a task. Of course, it was not a particularly meaningful task. But life is complicated. I like to have tasks that have clear endpoints for success. It was a clear goal and it would be clear when the goal was reached.

At least I think I finished. There are lots of roads on the map, but some are paper roads, and some are private roads and some are gated private roads. I did not get to all of those because. I’ve poured over the Strava map and Google streetview and I deem the task complete.

Now it’s on to the next feat, whatever it may be.

Tour de Newton

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It was a cool, wet, and cloudy day, but hundreds of people gathered across Newton to see all thirteen villages of Newton by bicycle. This was the re-scheduled Tour de Newton. (The original date in June was rained out by remnants of Tropical Storm Bill.)

In West Newton, we had several dozen riders starting out for the 20-mile ride.

tour de newton map

The nice folks at Harris Cyclery helped some riders with a last few fixes and tweaks. Then we rolled out in a long line to Auburndale. You can just catch a glimpse of me in this video:

It was a short ride to Auburndale, where the Auburndale Community library hosted us.

We encountered our first hill as we rode from Auburndale to Lower Falls. It’s a long climb past the Riverside MBTA Station and up over Route 95.

From Lower Falls we split the large group into two. I decided to fall back and lead the less fast group with kids. From Lower Falls we had the second big climb as we rode onto Washington Street. It’s a long climb up to Beacon Street.

The Waban Community Library was our rest stop in that village. A few riders needed it after the climb.

It was a short ride from Waban to Newton Highlands. The Hyde Community Center is a turn-around point to head back to the rest of Newton.

One of the big barriers to cycling in Newton is Route 9. Safe passage for a bike across the highway are few. Tour de Newton takes advantage of the pedestrian bridge at the Eliot MBTA station to get across the river of cars.  That gets us to Newton Upper Falls.

It’s a tough stretch from Upper Falls to Oak Hill. First you need to get across Needham Street. That’s tough to do in a car. It’s even harder on a bike. We aggressively took charge of the intersection and got the riders across safely in one bunch. Then it’s a long climb up to Oak Hill.

The Oak Hill stop is at Newton South High School. It doesn’t have much of a village feel. But then neither does Thompsonville, the next stop at Bowen Elementary School. Jerry Reilly, one of the founders of Tour de Newton was there to tell us the story of the most-often-forgotten of Newton’s thirteen villages.

The next stop was bustling Newton Center. A traffic challenge for cars and bikes.

Of course Chestnut Hill earned it’s name because it is a hill. This was the last of the big hills for our group. Some struggled, but they all made it. We had the safety of the bike lane on Beacon Street to help.

We earned a long downhill for those tired legs, heading down the carriage lane of Commonwealth Avenue to the Jackson Homestead in Newton Corner.

Nonantum is always the highlight of the Tour. The Nonantum Neighborhood Association puts out treats from Antoine’s Pastry Shop. I grabbed a few slices of delicious cake to refill my blood sugar levels.

One last village to visit: Newtonville. It involves another tricky crossing of Washington Street. I used the pedestrian signal. There was no way inexperienced cyclists could cross the intersection any other way.

Then it was time to the finish in West Newton. Washington Street is two lanes in both direction, but the cars don’t need both so we took one lane for ourselves.

The West Newton village greeters had just about given up on us, but we arrived just as they were packing up the supplies. That means we each got our “finishers” buttons.

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Here is me giving instructions at the start:

I’ll have to prepare the speech ahead of time for next year. Keep an eye out for the ride next June.

Tour de Newton

Tour de Newton

It was a glorious early summer day. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. I was wrapped in a bright orange shirt for my ride in the Tour de Newton.

The Tour de Newton is a casual ride though all 13 villages of Newton. It’s a shotgun start, so the ride starts simultaneously in all 13 villages. It ends up being about 20 miles and takes about 3 to 4 hours. You earn a pin at each village stop.

I signed up late so the only village still open for riders was Chestnut Hill. That meant I had to add on five miles at the beginning (and end) to get to the Boston College start.

John led the group out at a leisurely pace, while Lucia swept up the back of our pack of 25 riders. We were across the age spectrum, with a half dozen teenage boys exercising their freedom of adventure, a few under-ten, and pack of those comfortably in their middle age, like me.

From Chestnut Hill we coasted down Comm Ave and Centre Street to the Jackson Homestead for our first stop at Newton Corner. The downhill was a great way to start. But it also meant we would have to get back uphill at the end. Then on through the rest of Newton.

map

The Newton police set up cones for our left-hand turn through Newton Corner. They also set up cones on Washington Street to set up a bike travel lane as we pedaled over I-95 and blocked off-ramp traffic for us.

There was only one driver who acted like a jerk to our pack. He thought we were too much of an inconvenience and couldn’t wait the extra two minutes for us get through Auburndale. At least he was well-behaved enough to not actually hit any of the cyclists. He just made it more treacherous for us.

The Tour was extremely well-organized and well-supported. I’ll need to remember to sign up earlier next year.

Gently Paddling Through the Lakes District of the Charles River

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The Lakes District of the Charles River is formed by Moody Street Dam in Waltham. It impedes the flow of the Charles, flooding the low lying areas to create a power supply for the mill that used to operate at the base of the dam. The power need for the dam has long passed, but the dam stays in place, helping to control downriver flooding.

The dam was our end point. We started several miles upstream at Newton Lower Falls.

Just downstream from Newton Lower Falls
Just downstream from Newton Lower Falls

After the recent rain, the river was perky, running fast and deep. The river gage in Waltham has risen a half foot to 1.6 feet.

There is a parking lot just off Washington Street that is empty on the weekends. It offers a few easy spots to slide into the Charles. The property owner discourages parking in the lot for this access during the week.

It’s a gentle peaceful stretch of the river. The quiet of the river gets punctuated by the whoosh-whack of golfers patrolling the Leo J. Martin Golf Course that lines both riverbanks.

After the golf course there is the series of massive intrusions. First, the Charles River passes under I-95 for the third and final time, making its run to Boston Harbor.

Charles River passing under I-95
Charles River passing under I-95

Then there is Recreation Road, a railroad bridge, a pedestrian bridge, a Mass Pike off ramp, the Mass Pike and Commonwealth Avenue.

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After the bridges you run into river traffic at Charles River Canoe & Kayak. It sits in an old MDC police station on Commonwealth Avenue and has a wide variety of paddle craft to rent. 

In the Lakes section the water sits idle in many coves and inlets, spreading out between the higher ground in Newton, Weston and Waltham. At times, it’s hard to believe that you are only 12 miles from downtown Boston.

Charles River Canoe & Kayak
Charles River Canoe & Kayak

CRCK sits next to the Marriott hotel. This was the site of Norumbega Park, a recreation area and amusement park located in “Auburndale-on-the-Charles.” It was a popular “trolley” park, when the trolleys used to run up Commonwealth Avenue and stop at the nearby Riverside station. Norumbega Park opened in 1897 and closed for good on Labor Day weekend 1963. Hundreds of canoes would flood the Charles River on nice day. Like Revere Beach to the north of Boston, Norumbega Park went into sharp decline when automobiles overtook trolleys for transportation.

Off to the left is Norumbega Tower in Weston. In the late 1800s, Eben Horsford became obsessed with the idea that Vikings had set up settlements in this area. He found what he thought was the remains of a Viking fort and built the tower to commemorate the spot.

Further downstream we found a site where the landowners had placed various animal statutes along the river. A life-sized bison and Native American say hello. Further along the riverbank, we discovered his enormous turtle and alligator nestled in the low branches overhanging the slow moving river.

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Off to the right, we went past The Cove Playground, taking in the opposite view we are used to having from the swings.

Eventually, you run into the industrial history of the Charles River. The old Waltham Watch factory towers above you on the right-hand bank. The multiple buildings of the industrial complex sit close to the river bank. I assume the factory took advantage of the river to help power its production and used the flow to help clean up after the manufacturing process.

The Waltham Watch Factory
The Waltham Watch Factory

The pilings in the water next to the Prospect Street Bridge are from the Nuttings-on-the-Charles Dance Hall, a popular jazz-era ballroom. The hall burned down in 1961.

Then we came to the Moody Street Bridge and the dam barricades the river just after the bridge.

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We arrived at Moody Street at lunch time. Margarita’s has an outdoor dining area on the right bank of the river. This was an excellent stop for lunch.

Paddling Downstream from Moody Street

I’ve paddled through the Lakes District of the Charles River many times and approached the Moody Street Dam. I’ve looked over the edge, with the roar of falling water, wondering what is downstream. Ron McAdow labels that section the “Industrial Corridor” in his exploration guide: The Charles River. Michael Tougias doesn’t even bother paddling this stretch of the river in his Exploring the Hidden Charles. Needless to say, I had low expectations. I didn’t tell The Boy because if we want to paddle the entire Charles River, we need to paddle this section.

The books were wrong. This was an enjoyable stretch of the Charles River. You are not going to mistake it for the tranquil sections upstream where you see few signs of human life. You hear traffic noise. You see glimpses of commercial and industrial buildings. You see trash. But you also see the same wildlife and fauna you see upstream.

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The put-in at Landry Park, just downstream from the Moody Street Dam offers several choices for access. There is ample parking on the south side of the river that is easily accessible by a footbridge.

We started out in the fast water flushed downstream by the Moody Street Dam. Boating Barry decided to come along in his new-ish kayak.  The current took us quickly over the shallow water and we needed to make a few rapid adjustments to avoid the bigger obstructions.

The water stayed rapid allowing us to quickly pass under an old railroad bridge and the Newton Street bridge. Then the river slackens as it impounds behind the Bleachery Dam. We exited on the right hand bank and portaged the kayaks about 100 yards around the Bleachery Dam.  It’s located just behind the Shaw’s Supermarket on River Street in Waltham.

Bleachery Dam
Bleachery Dam

The portage path is now part of the Great Blue Heron Trail that follows the Charles River from Newton to the Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike Path. That made it an easy carry.

After getting back in, we came across goose island. It’s a small accretion of sediment, covered with ducks and geese.  On the right bank, Cheesecake Brook falls down a concrete slope after flowing down the middle of Albemarle Street. Then we passed under the spectacular Blue Heron Bridge.

Blue Heron Bridge
Blue Heron Bridge

The river picked up speed again as we got closer to the Bridge Street bridge. This is the site of the old Bemis Dam. It’s breached so you can go over, but there are rapids and obstructions in the river. Just enough to quicken your pulse and make a few quick digs with the paddle.

The river slackens again as it gets impounded behind the Watertown Dam. It’s a quick portage around and an easy reentry. The water is shallow and it’s easy to get caught on rocks. We did. Fortunately, the water is shallow so it was easy to get out and pull the kayak off the rocks. Boating Barry found deeper water closer to the left bank.

watertown dam

As we passed under the Watertown Square bridge, the character of the Charles River changed. We were clearly entering the basin portion of the river. Heavily traveled roads are on both sides of the river, veiled by a veneer of trees and bushes. As we turned a corner, the Prudential Tower was visible in the distance.

the pru and the charles

The Newton Yacht Club is on the right hand bank and the Watertown Yacht Club is on the left. The Charles River is now wide enough and deep enough for the big boats docked here.

Rowers start appearing in this stretch. The first sign is the new building and boathouse for the Community Rowing on Nonantum Road. The second is the Northeastern University’s Henderson Boathouse. A single sculler pulled up slowly along side us. Then pulled hard and left us in his wake.

We pulled off the river at Herter Park. We still have to tackle the Charles River Basin on another day.

The discharge rate at the Moody Street Dam was 211 and the gauge height was 1.68, both about average for July, but low for the Charles on a year round basis.

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Paddling the Dedham Loop

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If you want to take a long paddling trip on the Charles River and don’t own a canoe or kayak, this is a great choice. Charles River Canoe and Kayak will shuttle you up to Charles River Park on South Street in Needham and let you paddle back to Nahanton Park.

The Boy

The entrance is great, with a small amount of parking. Then, it’s a lazy cruise down the river, largely free of obstructions with lots of wildlife. The first notable landmark is a school on the left bank. The tennis courts and skating rink back up to the river.

Then you quickly come up to the Lyons Street bridge. The original bridge at this location was built prior to 1741 and has been rebuilt several times since. Below this bridge, the Charles crosses under Route 128 (I-95 for you latecomers to Boston) for the first of three crossings.

After that crossing we began the long loop around the marshes of Dedham. You can bypass the loop during high water by cutting across the Long Ditch. This was an early flood control measure on the Charles River. It was dug in 1654 to reduce flooding and improve the meadow grasslands. As you might expect, this too is part of the Natural Valley Storage Project on the Charles River, helping to alleviate flooding further downriver.

Another flood control measure is the Mother Brook diversion.

Entrance to the Mother Brook diversion.
Entrance to the Mother Brook diversion.

This outlet sends high water over to the Neponset River. Apparently, it can take the extra flow. Mother Brook is manmade. The 4000 foot ditch was dug in 1639 from the Charles River to East Brook to provide water flow to a new mill, then another, and another. The mills are long gone, but a flood gate now helps control the diversion.

This section of the river passes along the VFW Parkway with the Dedham Mall on the far side of the highway. Harvey Beach, the long discarded swimming spot on the Charles, is here.

High on the right bank is a treeless hill. This is the capped Gardner Street landfill, a major Boston dump from the 1930s to the 1970s. The river is wide in this section. It narrows to squeeze through a railroad bridge. If you time it just right, you can pass under as a commuter rail passes roars overhead.

The river widens again and eventually leads you to the dock at Nahanton Park.

dedham loop

Paddling in the Lakes District of the Charles River (Part II)

Charles River Canoe and Kayak sits in an old MDC police station on Commonwealth Avenue and has a wide variety of paddle craft to rent. Earlier, The Son and I rented a two-person kayak and headed upstream towards the Lower Fall Dam: Paddling in the Lakes District of the Charles River (Part I).

Today, we rented a canoe and headed downstream toward the Moody Street Dam in Waltham. It’s that dam that backs up the Charles River and creates the lake-like feeling in this section of the Charles River.

The slow-moving water creates abundant habitat for waterlife. We spotted many turtles and an impressive great blue heron.

The water sits idle in many coves and inlets, spreading out between the higher ground in Newton, Weston and Waltham. At times, it’s hard to believe that you are only 10 miles from downtown Boston.

One tip for paddling in a canoe with a young kid is to sit in the boat backwards. That way the heavier adult (Does this canoe make me look fat?) is moved toward the center of the canoe, better distributing the weight with a small kid up front. The kid does not need the leg room, so the stern seat (now at the front) should be far enough away from the stern bulkhead for the kid to have legroom.

After trying out the canoe, I going to stick with a kayak for my Charles River journey. The canoe is much harder to paddle with only one person doing the bulk of the work.

It was a pleasant day for paddling so I dug the paddle in and headed downstream, past the Marriott hotel.

This was the site of Norumbega Park, a recreation area and amusement park located in “Auburndale-on-the-Charles.” It was a popular “trolley” park, when the trolleys used to run up Commonwealth Avenue and stop at the nearby Riverside station. Norumbega Park opened in 1897 and closed for good on Labor Day weekend 1963. Hundreds of canoes would flood the Charles River on nice day. Like Revere Beach to the north of Boston, Norumbega Park went into sharp decline when automobiles overtook trolleys for transportation.

Off to the left is Norumbega Tower in Weston. In the late 1800s, Eben Horsford became obsessed with the idea that Vikings had set up settlements in this area. He found what he thought was the remains of a Viking fort and built the tower to commemorate the spot.

Further downstream we found a site where the landowners had placed various animal statutes along the river. A life-sized bison and Native American say hello. Further along the riverbank, we discovered his enormous turtle and alligator nestled in the low branches overhanging the slow moving river.

Off to the right, we went past The Cove Playground, taking in the opposite view we are used to having from the swings.

Eventually, you run into the industrial history of the Charles River. The old Waltham Watch factory towers above you on the right-hand bank. The multiple buildings of the industrial complex sit close to the river bank. I assume the factory took advantage of the river to help power its production and used the flow to help clean up after the manufacturing process.

The pilings in the water next to the Prospect Street Bridge are from the Nuttings-on-the-Charles Dance Hall, a popular jazz-era ballroom.

The hall burned down in 1961.

Then we came to the Moody Street Dam.

Paddling in the Lakes District of the Charles River (Part I)

I finally convinced The Boy to get a paddle in his hands. We rented a double kayak from Charles River Canoe & Kayak on Commonwealth Avenue in Newton and set off to explore the Charles River.

It was beautiful day on the Charles. The trees were showing a few wisps of the upcoming colors of fall.

The Lakes District is formed by Moody Street Dam in Waltham. It impedes the flow of the Charles, flooding the low lying areas to create a power supply for the mill that used to operate at the base of the dam. The power need for the dam has long passed, but the dam stays in place, helping to control downriver flooding.

But rather than heading downstream into the Lakes District, we headed upstream to the dam at Newton Lower Falls. I figured it was time to start linking together some of my trips on Charles River.

Heading upstream from Charles River Canoe & Kayak gets you zig-zagg under the highway bridges of I-90 and I-95 and a railroad crossing. Other those massive intrusions, it’s a nice stretch of river.

Until you get to the old Grossman’s site in Wellesley. That site had sat vacant for years. Now they are finally re-developing the site. Unfortunately, they decided to cut down nearly all of the trees, bushes, and plants on the riverbank that abuts the site. The de-nuded slope is a disaster.

It was also close to our turn-around point. The water level was low and we scraped the bottom in a few places, finally forcing us to turn before we could see the upstream dam.

Along the way we got buzzed by a great blue heron. We payed visits to the dozens of turtles sunning themselves on the riverbank.

The Boy did very little paddling, but said he had a great time. Most importantly, he said he wanted to go again.
The yellow line marks our journey.

Dr. Paul Dudley White Bicycle Path

Only Cambridge takes credit for the Dr. Paul Dudley White Bike Path in the 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts. Watertown, Newton and Boston failed to take credit for the portions of the 17 mile bike path that loops around the Charles River Basin. It stretches on both sides of the river from the Museum of Science to Watertown Square.

As one of the many defects in the published list of 1,000 Great Places(.pdf), the place is identified as the “Dr. Paul W. White Bike Path” in Cambridge. I suppose “W.” and “Dudley” sound similar.

Who was Dr. White?

He was an international famous cardiologist. He was probably most famous for acting as President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s physician following his heart attack in 1955. He was one of the founders of the American Heart Association and became the organization’s president in 1941.

Dr. White was a staunch advocate of exercise, diet, and weight control in the prevention of heart disease. It’s no surprise that he was a bicycle enthusiast

“We must establish more bike path and trails throughout the country. I’d like to see everyone on a bike – not just once in a while, but regularly as a routine. The bicycle should become a superb resource for the whole family to enjoy the beauties of nature, whether in our national parks, along our seacoasts, or simply in our beautiful woods and fields the country over.” American Cycling, August 1968, 200,000 Miles of Bikeways!(.pdf)

In riding the path, I only found one small sign (pictured) that indicated it was the Dr. Paul Dudley White Bicycle Path. That was in the Boston section, at about where Exeter Street would intersect with the bike path.

He would be disappointed in the current condition of the bike path that carries his name. (Maybe that’s why there are so few signs.) The quality varies from nice wide cycling boulevards with center stripes to narrow stretches of broken asphalt with dangerous drops at the edges. In some places it is barely wide enough for one bicycle to pass another safely.

The road intersections are particularly poor. The intersections largely ignore the bike path, forcing you into some dangerous traffic interactions. I find (1) the Boston intersection with Western Avenue, (2) the Boston intersection with Arsenal Street, and (3) the intersections with North Beacon Street in Boston and Watertown to be dangerous. Not just for bikes. Pedestrians also dread these intersections.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation extended the path into the Auburndale section of Newton, weaving back and forth across the many road intersections and bridges that cross the Charles River.

Here is what I have so far on 1,000 Great Places in Massachusetts:

[catlist id=454 numberposts=1000]

Paddling in Hemlock Gorge

Unlike the rather pristine Stop River Confluence area of the Charles River, the Hemlock Gorge section is more urban, passing houses, factories and highways.

I launched from Nahanton Park in Newton. There was plenty of parking here. There was a dock at the park which made the launch very easy. This park is where the Charles River Wheelmen start and finish their Saturday fitness rides. The Needham radio and television towers are visible in the distance once you enter this section of the river. At one point I had represented clients who had bought, sold or leased space on most of the towers. So they served as a visual reminder in front of me for the job I had just left behind.

There are significant industrial buildings along the river. If you remember your history of the industrial revolution in the northeast, this means there are dams along the river. I knew I had a few portages ahead on the river.

There is a modern railroad bridge abutting older stone abutments which mark the location of an older bridge.  This bridge was for the Charles River branch of the Boston and Worcester Railroad. Built in 1850, this rail line was built to bring stone and gravel from Needham to fill Boston’s Back Bay. During its peak, forty car trains of fill ran every 45 minutes.

The Elliot Street Bridge is made of three stone arches and appears just before the Silk Mill Dam. I am glad I remembered this landmark because the dam was not marked. I noticed an old industrial building on the right bank and noted that it looked like an old mill building. Then I noticed that the river seemed to disappear and there was an increasing roar. I had found the first dam. I quickly turned around and paddled upstream to good spot to take the kayak out of the river and start the portage. It was fairly long walk of about 200 yards through Hemlock Gorge Reservation , leading down into Hemlock Gorge between Newton’s Upper Falls and the Echo Bridge.

Just downstream of the Silk Mill Dam is Echo Bridge. It is famous for the wonderful echoes that can resonate back and forth between the arches. Yes, I did holler out as I went under. The echo was very impressive.

Echo Bridge
Echo Bridge

Echo Bridge carries the Sudbury Aqueduct. In 1878, the mainstream of the Sudbury River was diverted via the Sudbury Aqueduct to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir to supply water for the City of Boston. The bridge was built in 1876, spanning 130 feet across the Charles River.

The fall of water at Hemlock Gorge was an attractive power supply for industry. In 1688 John Clark built a sawmill. His sons expanded by adding a fulling mill and a grist mill. In 1788 Simon Elliot bought part of the site and put in a snuff mill.  In 1824 a cotton mill was added, which was later converted to a silk mill. The dam is often called the Silk Mill Dam because of this long running use of the dam.

Horseshoe Dam
Horseshoe Dam

Next on the river was the Circular Dam or Horseshoe Dam. Again, the dam was not marked and was harder to hear because it was right next to the overpass for Route 9. This is also the site of a portage under Route 9 on the Ellis Street underpass, down to Turtle Island. A millrace was put in place here in 1782 for a sawmill. 1792 Newton Iron Works took over and rolled iron bars for 50 years. The millrace is to the right of the dam and is the landing spot for the portage. I certainly looked strange carrying a bright yellow kayak across a busy intersection. (You in the Volvo.  Thanks for yakking on your cell phone and not noticing the guy with a yellow kayak his shoulder.) As expected, this portage was the most dangerous part of the day.

Road Signs on 128
Road Signs on 128

The Charles then follows Route 128/ Interstate 95 for a few miles. Even the road signs on Route 128 are visible from the river. The right bank of the river in this section follows Quinobequin Road in Newton. I was surprised that Route 128 was not more intrusive. Of course you could hear the traffic. But visually you only see an occasional car and those road signs. There are plans to put sound barrier in this area. They will reduce the road noise, but I think they will be much more visually intrusive,

After passing under Route 128, I passed under the Cochituate Aqueduct crossing the river and under 128 on a three-arched bridge. The Cochituate Aqueduct was built in 1848 to carry water from Lake Cochituate in Framingham to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. It serves a similar purpose to the Sudbury Aqueduct that runs through Echo Bridge.

Cordingly Dam
Cordingly Dam

Just below Water Street in Wellesly is the Cordingly Dam. An experienced paddler would tell you that given the level of the Charles, the water under the dam is very shallow and rock-strewn, making it likely that you could get your kayak stuck on a rock and get swamped. I am not an experienced kayaker.  I got stuck on a rock, the river poured over the side of the kayak into the cockpit and swamped it. This left me flapping in the river like one of the herring in the dam’s fish ladder. Since the river was shallow here I was able to walk with the kayak over to the river bank and empty most of the water out. All of this was a source of great amusement to the people sitting along the river enjoying their lunches. I was nearly at the end of this stretch of the river and it was a warm sunny day so I quickly warmed up.

Newton Lower Falls
Newton Lower Falls

I ended this stretch of the river at Washington Street / Route 16 in Wellesley at the top of Newton Lower Falls. I dried myself off, changed into my biking gear to pedal back to the truck and bring it back for my water-logged gear.

You can the rest of my paddling trips laid out on a map: Paddling Trips.