Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Falling River

Fall River, MA, took its name from the Quequechan or "Falling River" of the Pocasset Wampanoags. I have often wondered how Fall River looked centuries ago. This 1812 map of Fall River  shows the Quequechan river flowing  from Watuppa Pond to a small pond, and then falling nearly straight down the steep slope to a pond at present-day Battleship Cove.   The map shows that the area with Long Pond (now Firestone Pond) has a massive boulder and some partially submerged boulders named the Peaked Rocks.  Unfortunately, these are long gone.
     Philip's History of Fall River describes the pond at the brink of the falls. On the south shore of the pond was a huge conglomeration of boulders known as Cleft Rock, which extended to present-day Bedford Street.  A narrow path went  about Cleft Rock, and Main Street passed through the cleft.  Here is my imagining of the falls, looking east to the hill on County street where Rolling Rock still stands. Lookout Rock at Weetamoo Woods was the model for Cleft Rock.

     The Quequechan river powered the mills of Fall River through the 1800s.  A dam was built across the falls, and then raised two feet in 1826.  This flooded the river and Watuppa Pond, but afforded consistent water power for the mills. The last water-powered mill burned down in 1974.
     This photo was taken by my father in the early 1960s.  It shows the  Quequechan river flowing from under some mill buildings on Second street near the post office.  Even though I was very young at the time, I still remember how bad the heavily contaminated river water smelled.
Here is the pipe the river was entombed in. The Academy building is to the left, and the post office to the right.  Notice the lack of fencing and barriers around the construction.  Evidently, nobody was worried about personal injury lawsuits.
 I have often wondered what the Falling River looked like before it was used to run mills, and then buried in a culvert.  Here is my interpretation.
The first falls and Cleft Rock would not be visible from this angle. The river fell over a series of eight falls before reaching the Taunton River. Peaked Rocks and the massive boulder are in the foreground.
Here is the view from a ledge beside one of the falls, looking toward the sun setting over Mount Hope in winter.


  1. wow the powers that were had no clue what they were destroying

  2. Love the artwork. Would you like to be included in an exhibit at Fall River State Park?