Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Island in South Watuppa Pond

One of the most mysterious stone structures of South Watuppa Pond is a submerged stone row that extends from   Cranberry Neck to a small, rocky island.  The row is about 600 feet long and curved, presumably to stay in shallower water. 
     The stone row is visible in satellite imagery, and made its appearance in August 2010, when the level of South Watuppa Pond fell drastically.
 Here the row  appears as a faint diagonal line below the island in imagery from Bing Maps.
The island has two loosely formed stone rows extending north, which may be natural features.
 Here the stone row is revealed by a very  low water level in September 2010.  The row's curve, the island, and Fall River  are visible.

The island is marshy, and covered with thick reeds.  There don't seem to be any structures on the island, except for what might be a platform cairn, and a small propped rock.  The island was not cleared for farming and has no visible building foundations.   I doubt whether a farmer would expend the energy to build a causeway to a small island of no apparent economic value, especially since the island can be reached in a short boat trip.
     On the shore of Cranberry Neck facing north  are three short stone rows.

 Two of these have features suggesting manitous.  There is a manitou standing on the row in the center of  the above photo.

The next stone row to the right has several manitous, created by placing large rocks with the pointed ends up. Also, some of the stones in the row are placed so that there is empty space under them.
 Obviously, there is no reason to do this when building a wharf or foundation. At the end of this row there is a large slab with tool marks, visible to the right.    These stone rows would have been out of the water before the pond level was raised.  They may have once formed enclosures, but  any back walls are long gone.
     This property now belongs to the Fall River Rod and Gun Club. Originally, it belonged to Benjamin Church, who fought in King Philip's War with the Pocasset Wampanoags.  The Pocassets originally lived about the Watuppas, and were granted lands on both sides of the ponds after the war, but later moved to Watuppa Reservation.  Cranberry Neck was deeded to William Borden in 1727, and the Bordens farmed the land for about 200 years.  The land was then deeded to the Fall River Rod and Gun Club.  The Club has done minimal "improvements" to their property, and it  looks like unspoiled forest from the water.
    The pond level was raised in 1826, when the Troy Dam was raised two feet.  Since this was an addition to an existing dam, it's possible the original pond level was even lower.   This is a section of the map of pond depths I used previously.  The  edge of the red area closer to shore  represents 5 feet in depth.  The original shoreline may have been closer to the 5 foot mark, and the very shallow area at the Christopher Borden Brook outlet  would have been mostly dry land. The stone rows would have been out of the water, and the island would have been considerably larger, as the water around it is shallow.

Here is my interpretation of the view from the island, looking towards Cranberry Neck, with the water about two feet lower than today. I  painted this in 2011, and incorporated the present-day appearance of the shore.
To the left is a marsh where Christopher Borden brooks enters the pond. The short stone rows  are further to the west along the shore, and out of the picture.
     The long curved stone row may have been built  from  rocks cleared from the shallow area directly east of it.  This area may have been  used as a  summer campsite.
      Here is my interpretation of how the area may have looked originally, to someone walking on top of the stone row.
Here two wigwams covered with reed mats stand on the shore. The openings face east, and are not visible.   The Christopher Borden brook flows to left, creating a small marsh. Pond water laps at the base of the stone row. Even today the pond  is noticeably shallower directly east of the submerged stone row, and large patches of waterlilies follow its outline.
A thunderstorm gathers on a summer afternoon hundreds of years ago.


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