Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Water Flow Across A Landscape

Somewhere in the woods of northern Rhode Island, a row  of  flat rocks extends down a steep slope and ends at the bottom.  A possible purpose for this row is suggested in the spring, when snow melt forms large pools of standing water.
Water makes trickling sounds as it cascades down the rocks, and then vanishes into a mound obscured by a rotting tree.  I  first found it by following  the sounds.  One would expect the ground around the end of this stone row to be wet, but it never is.  This structure may be a drain.  The stone row collects the water, and channels it into a drain of stones buried under the soil.
Above we can see where the running water has melted the snow.  Below is a clearer picture from 2008.

Some may say that this  was created by water eroding the foliated granite, leaving a trail of fragments.    However,  since the water disappears into a mound at the bottom, this was  probably built for drainage. These were  built by farmers, but I imagine that Natives may have also built them to keep their fields from getting swampy.
Here is the view from the top, with the water passing under the rotting, fallen tree. Below is the  interesting view from the top with a dirt road, a wall, and what looks like a small manitou to the left.
 Evidently, the farmers and the Indians before them controlled the flow of water across the landscape. 200 feet away is an old well next to a  small building foundation. About 90 feet from this well is a large stream.
I have heard this type of well described as an "Indian well", but it never made sense to me why an Indian would go to the trouble of digging a well when fresh water was an easy walk away. My guess is that farmers dug the small wells in this landscape because their livestock contaminated the streams.

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