Tuesday, May 26, 2015

To Newichawannock and the Falls

This past Sunday I returned to the Newichawannock River (aka Salmon Falls River) to resume the journey I'd started last Wednesday.  On that very windy day I had paddled from Dover Point on the Piscataqua upriver on the Newichawannock past the confluence with the Cochecho River and up to the Eliot Bridge (Rt. 101) in South Berwick, Maine.

Over the days following that paddle I found myself wondering about the Native American locale known as Newichawannock which is said to be only a few miles upriver from where I'd previously turned around.  Guess it's the eternal wondering about and wanting to know what lies around the bend in the river that drew me back.

So on a breezy and mild late Sunday afternoon with the tide approaching flood, I launched from the Maine side of Eliot Bridge (distant shore)...
 ...and began my ascent by picking up where I'd last looked upstream on Wednesday...

This section of river is patrolled by osprey such as this one...



About a mile beyond the bend pictured loomed the promontory seen in the opening photo.
Today its the location of the Hamilton House (built in the 1700s) and occupies a commanding spot on the river...
Known as Pipe Stave Landing it was head of tidewater (at low tide) and most likely would have been the perfect location for the 1630s trading post mentioned in historical accounts.

Being nearly high tide I was able to paddle still further upriver to where the Great Falls were once the dominant feature.  The first falls were the waters of the Asbenbedick River (today's Great Works River), which entered the Newichawannock from the east.  They were only a short distance above Pipe Stave Landing.  Today they've been contained behind this high dam...
 My boat and I are in the tame millrace.

The area just upstream from this point, while said to be a continuous rapid at low tide, could be attained at high tide for another half mile up to Quampeagan Falls.  Between the two falls a neck of land slopes gently downward and, facing to the southwest, would have been an ideal village location for the Newichawannock tribe during times of fish migrations...

A small island lies in the narrows between the falls...
...and yielded this old bottle...

Freed from the mud, it was still intact and may have been an ink bottle...

Beyond the island is the dam at Quampeagan Falls or the head of tidewater (at high water)...
 
 
 
 
In Russell M. Lawson's The Piscataqua Valley in the Age of Sail: A Brief History I found the following: "Every spring, the early seventeenth-century sachem of the Newichawannock tribe, Rowls, repaired to the point, which they called Quampeagan, that separated the Newichawannock from a tributary, the Asbenbedick (Great Falls) River.  At these falls of almost thirty feet, salmon was so plentiful that, according to one legend preserved by Sarah Orne Jewett, "one might walk across on the salmon, which wedge themselves into solid masses in their efforts to leap the impossible high fall near the mouth of Chadbourne's or the Great Works River".  Above the falls, the Newichawannock extends over thirty miles and the Asbenbedick twenty-seven miles.  From Quampeagan to the mouth of the Cocheco is four miles."
 
The Great Falls were, of course, tamed and put to work by Europeans creating much industry at South Berwick, and the salmon migrations are long gone.  Sitting in my boat where hardly a trickle of water gets past the high dam on the Asbenbedick I can't help but wonder about just how majestic these Great Falls once were...
 
 
Once back at Eliot Bridge, however, two horseshoe crabs were seen doing what they've successfully done for eons (in spite of human activities)...
 
 
 
Very little trash was encountered in these waters...
 


3 comments:

carole-eliah said...

How interesting. I was hoping to find a map using both the native and present day names of rivers. How glorious it would be to see these rivers in their original state unobstructed by dams. I was hoping to see you follow the Salmon Falls River further up with more info about the river as it flowed past the Rollingsford mill and under the rail tracks and even up into Berwick. Look forward to more of your posts in this area. Thank you for your Trashpaddler's Wanderings.

Trashpaddler said...

You're welcome carole-eliah and thanks for stopping by. I agree with your suggestion of exploring further up the Salmon Falls River.

Ken Kartes said...

Look at the book " A history of Rollinsford, NH" by Alfred Catalfo.