Part 4 of A Mill River History

Part 4 of A Mill River History –  Contact: The Nonotuck and the English — has now been posted here.

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Scouting for Invasive Plants July 24th

We are partnering with the Connecticut River Watershed Council and Grow Food Northampton to survey a portion of the Mill River off Meadow Street for invasive plant species.  MRGI members are more than welcome to join in the beginning of this effort to manage invasives along the Mill River from Look Park to Meadow St.

Meet at the Florence Organic Garden on Meadow St. in Florence at 9:00 AM on Wednesday July 24th.  Gaby Immerman, plant expert extraordinaire, will introduce you to the subject and the area.

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Trash In Leeds

Please read today’s front page of the Gazette with Bob Dunn’s lead article on the trash problem along the Mill in Leeds.  We hope that MRGI will be able to work with the Leeds Civic Association and the City to help alleviate the problem.  We’ll keep you up to date on our progress.

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New Williamsburg Mill River Greenway Study

Here it is!  After a year’s study, Williamsburg’s Mill River Greenway Committee has published its Mill River Greenway Feasibility Report that focuses on ways to link Haydenville and Williamsburg Center along the river.  It’s well worth a look, and congratulations go out to the committee and the town.

“Our study established conceptual path corridors and documented public comments, which serve as a basis for the next physical planning phase. The report identifies a number of strategic phases for competitive grant applications in order to combine our local objectives with ongoing regional planning processes to achieve the economy of scale needed to obtain economic feasibility.

The Mill River Greenway Committee concludes that such a Greenway within the Mill River Corridor is feasible, and would be of great benefit to our Town and the surrounding communities. We have refined the goal, identified community support, and affirmed the physical, ecological, technical, and economic feasibility of implementing alternative transportation linkages.”

You can find the full report here.


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June 1st Launch of MRGI’s First Riverwalk Brochure — Paradise Pond to Old South St.

Come help us launch the first of MRGI’s series of self-guided historic riverwalks, this one from Paradise Pond on the Smith College campus to Old South Street in downtown Northampton.  You will be walking through more than 350 years of history on this riverwalk, which focuses on the centers of Northampton’s early industries as well as the history of the river itself.

John Sinton, MRGI’s co-moderator, will lead the tour, which includes stops at early mill sites, at the 1940 diversion, then a walk alongside the former bed of the “Hidden Mill River” and an endpoint where the first bridge across the Mill was built in the 17th century.

Everyone will get a copy of the beautiful brochure with its map and text, along with historic maps and photos.

Time & Date: 10:00-11:30  Saturday, June 1st

Meeting Place: The Boathouse across from the Greenhouse on Paradise Pond

Heavy rain cancels the event.

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Part 3 of a Mill River History

Part 3 of A Mill River History, entitled “The First People,” is ready for you to view here.

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Please join us for our Spring Celebration

Come celebrate another year of inspiring activity on the Mill River with us at our annual spring celebration. The party will take place on Friday April 26th, from 5 to 7 PM at the home of MRGI co-moderator Neal Bastek, 3 Village Hill Avenue, in Williamsburg.

An advance copy of our first self-guided Mill River Walk brochure will be available at the party. The tour explores the changes to the river’s flow as a result of Northampton’s growth as an industrial center in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The walk follows the Mill River between Paradise Pond and South Street, Northampton, revealing the ‘hidden’ clues to the original river bed and the many diversions that once flowed through what is now downtown Northampton. Free copies will be distributed to the public in May. We’ll also share a presentation to introduce our vision of a Mill River Greenway that Sophia Geller, a Smith senior, developed.

We’re looking to grow our membership base this year so please consider bringing a friend of the river along and introducing them to our work. Please rsvp to

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A Mill River History

1700 Northampton according to Cestre. Courtesy of Forbes Library

1700 Northampton according to Cestre. Courtesy of Forbes Library

This month we are introducing our Mill River History, beginning with the river’s re-emergence from under glaciers after the last Ice Age.

Follow us on Facebook.  We welcome your suggestions, corrections, and comments.

Introduction and Geological History

We will introduce you to the Mill River and its major features as it brings life to the valley.  You will then discover its recent geological history since the disappearance of the last glaciers and the post-glacial landscape of Lake Hitchcock.  Much of the credit for this account goes to Dr. John Brady, Professor of Geology at Smith College, although the author of the account remains responsible for its writing.


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Winter Newsletter

Devil’s Den in December. Photo: John Sinton

While snow has blanketed us these past two months, we’ve been beavering away on several projects:

1. The Williamsburg Mill River Greenway Committee is making steady progress on a feasibility study for a connecting corridor along the river between Burgy and Haydenville centers. The report is set to be delivered to the Board of Selectmen in late June. There will be a chance for public input later this spring, Williamsburg residents stay tuned. (Full disclosure: MRGI co-moderator, Neal Bastek, is a member of the committee.)

2. Save the date: We will hold our annual spring friendraiser party on Friday, April 26th in Williamsburg. We’d love for you to join us.

3. Beginning in March, co-moderator John Sinton will introduce A History of the Mill River in installments, starting with the river’s geological history, then continuing with the First People, the First Settlers, and on to the end of the 19th century.  Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

4. A self-guided tour brochure of the lower river from Paradise Pond to South Street in Northampton will be available in April.  Guided tours will begin in spring.  The brochure is the product of MRGI and Smith College (Reid Bertone-Johnson and his students).  Damia Cavallari of Transit Authority Figures designed the brochure.

5. MRGI co-moderators Neal and John co-authored a paper on MRGI that Smith College instructor Reid Bertone-Johnson and Smith student Sophia Geller (class of ’13) will present in April at the Fabos Greenway Conference at UMass.  The paper will be available on this site in March.

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Draining Paradise Pond

Paradise Pond Drawdown #1 Oct. 2012

Paradise Pond Drawdown 2

Paradise Pond Drawdown #2 Oct. 2012

Paradise Pond Drawdown 1

Paradise Pond Dam Face #1 Oct. 2012

Paradise Pond Dam 2

Paradise Pond Dam Face Oct. 2012 #2

Paradise Pond Dam 1


Several people have asked, “What’s happening at  Smith College’s Paradise Pond?”  Here is the answer from our most knowledgeable source, Gary Hartwell, Smith College’s  Project Manager.

The Pond has been “partially” drawn down to repair the earthen portion of the dam which runs from the spillway upstream 800′ to the throwing field. There will be no dredging at this time, but we have just started planning for the next dredging project. We’re anticipating permits in summer 2014.

Work specifications:  Approx. 300′ (in the middle, on the curve) will be excavated down 12′ and replaced with engineered soils. The entire length will be re-shaped and armored with 1.5′ crushed stone to about 18″ above normal pool.

Elevations in feet above sea level:
top of flashboards – 135.7 (normal pool)
top of earthen dam – 141.5 to 143 (Irene crest 140.5)
depth of excavation – 131
top of new dam – 143
current dam slope (Pond side) – 1:1 and steeper
dam slope after repair – 3:1
bottom of new stone armor 130.7
top of new stone armor 137.0

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