A Walk at The Failed Williamsburg Reservoir Site with Ralmon Black

Williamsburg Dam breached

Williamsburg Dam breached, John Sinton photo

Williamsburg Dam remnants, John Brady photo

Williamsburg Dam remnants, John Brady photo

Williamsburg Dam west wall, John Brady photo

Williamsburg Dam west wall, John Brady photo

Williamsburg Dam east wall, John Brady photo

Williamsburg Dam east wall, John Brady photo

Ralmon Black at Williamsburg Dam site

Ralmon Black at Williamsburg Dam site, JS photo

The Failed Williamsburg Reservoir Disaster walk is a classic New England tour of the remnants of the Williamsburg Reservoir on the East Branch that gave way on May 16th, 1874, killing 139 people and leaving a swath of destruction more than 5 miles downstream to the village of Florence in Northampton.  Elizabeth Sharpe’s In the Shadow of the Dam provides an outstanding narrative of the flood, its context and causes, the people involved, and the aftermath.

Ralmon Black, a well-known local historian, led a riverwalk on April 14th 2012 to the site in which he described the different parts of the dam, the site of the gate keeper’s house, and the path the keeper rode on horseback to warn the town of Williamsburg.

This walk is best taken before the trees have leafed out and is very difficult to photograph since all the sight lines are interrupted by dense woods.  Access is limited because the first several hundred feet are privately owned and the Northampton Department of Public Works requires a permit to walk the area.

The MRGI is hoping to find alternative entry points and to work out a permit system from the city of Northampton, but for the moment, walkers will have to contact either Ralmon Black or Eric Weber of Williamsburg in order to take this jewel of a walk.

One Response to A Walk at The Failed Williamsburg Reservoir Site with Ralmon Black

  1. Christian Edler says:

    My wife and I would like to visit the dam site and/or take the walk. Is this possible? We recently discovered that my wife’s great, great (?) grandfather died in the disaster (Michael Burke). I just ordered “In the Shadow of the Dam” and hope to learn more about the event.