Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Stone Rows of South Watuppa Pond, West Shore

    South Watuppa Pond lies south of Fall River, MA, and is divided from North Watuppa Pond by the narrows and I-195.  It is drained by  the Quequechan river, which flows through Fall River and empties into the Taunton River at Battleship Cove.   An 1812 map shows the Quequechan flowing in a nearly straight  line  to the Troy dam  which was near present-day City Hall.  In 1826, the Troy dam was raised two feet to provide reliable water power to the Fall River mills.  The Quequechan flooded many properties, creating ponds and islands.  South Watuppa Pond also rose, covering walls and a causeway.
     In March 2010, heavy rains caused South Watuppa Pond to flood lakeside properties.  The water even crossed Martine Street and Brayton Avenue extension in Fall River.  The Fall River Water Department lowered the Quequechan river floodgate, and left the gate down all summer. The pond fell to a level not seen for years, and walls and structures that were once known only as boating hazards were seen in detail.
     Most of the South Watuppa shoreline  is covered with houses.  However, interesting stone rows remain at marshes and other undeveloped areas.  Here are photographs from my visits to these areas by kayak in 2010 and 2011. Some of these photographs appeared on Larry Harrop's blog two years ago.
 On the west shore is a large enclosure, about 500 feet wide. This is the large stone row on the north side of the enclosure. It is about 100 feet long.   The large white boulder to the right in the photograph  is standing on smaller stones.
To the left in the photo  is a large boulder leaning on another boulder. 

The boulders appear to have been carefully placed in this stone row, and not just pushed aside.  There are few boulders inside the enclosure, suggesting that the stone row was created by land clearing. I used to think this was an old wharf foundation, but  wharves have level tops, and when the pond was two feet lower, this structure would have been out of the water.
     The second wall is mostly submerged, and begins at a large puddingstone directly south of the stone row.
This view is looking north  from the curve in the wall, showing some of the stones above water in August 2010.  The puddingstone and north  wall are visible in the distance.  These stone rows appear on satellite imagery from Bing Maps.

The shoreline to the north of this site is marshland, and has a few low, curving stone rows.
These are in very shallow water, and would have been out of the water before 1826. These stone rows are very different from the wharves and ice house foundations built in the 19th century. 
Here are some wharves built at  old summer cottages and camps on the east shore. They consist of smaller rocks piled in shorter, wider rows.
     The west shore site may have been  an Indian summer campsite  used by  Pocasset Wampanoags. The boulders in the stone rows would have been placed there when the site was cleared.  The water at the end of the submerged wall is about 3 feet deep, so this wall may served to keep back pond water after heavy rains.  The low curving stone rows could have surrounded gardens.
     Here is how this site may have looked in summer. The wigwams are facing east.  Corn is growing in the garden to the right.
The Pocasset Wampanoags probably moved to a swamp in North Tiverton  for the winter.  Here is the site in winter, looking south from the large stone row.  I added in a couple of broken wigwam frames for a sense of scale.
So far this year, heavy rains have kept the pond level high.  There are other stone rows with interesting features I will show in later posts.


  1. Very interesting. I found this site while trying to find some data which showed pond levels over the years. The Herald News used to published these levels fairly regularly.

  2. Does anyone know where to find information about these "camps" that were present on the S. Watuppa in the 1900's?