Blackstone River Watershed Association
Blackstone River Watershed Association
In This Issue

Annual EarthDay Cleanup

First Annual Family Fun Fishing Day

A Day on the Blackstone



Endangered Species Day

Taking on Climate Change in MA: Update

Grading our Lawmakers


Discovering Skull Rock Lock


Pedal Power


BRWA Online
About the BRWA


Issue 55 May 2015


Annual EarthDay Cleanup

A hearty THANK YOU to everyone who contributed to a very successful EarthDay Cleanup on April 19th! We had nearly 200 volunteers working at 36 sites in ten towns throughout the watershed. Very impressive! It was a beautiful day for individuals, families, scouts, and community groups to pitch in along shorelines and in waterways of the Blackstone River Watershed.
Earth Day Cleanup volunteers hard at work.
young Earth Day Cleanup volunteers hard at work

Ideally, we would not have enough trash in our wetlands, streams, ponds, and rivers to keep 200 people busy for the afternoon. But alas, volunteers pulled out enough general litter to fill 210 garbage bags! They also removed tires, household items, electronics, furniture, car parts, hazardous waste, and construction debris. Some volunteers cleaned up evidence of bathroom remodeling work including two toilets, two sinks, a baseboard heating element, and bathroom tiles! At least one item, an old wooden wagon wheel, was taken from the trash heap to be repurposed by a happy passerby. The real prize, however, goes to BRWA Board Member Joy Trahan, who pulled a wrapped pot roast out of the water at Plummers Landing in Northbridge??
Volunteers at Plummer's Landing
2015 Earth Day volunteers at Plummers Landing with pile of trash.

Our dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers worked in Millbury (the Blackstone River and Broad Meadow Brook), Grafton (the Quinsigamond River, the Blackstone River, Hovey Pond, Axtell Brook, and Silver Lake), Upton (the West River), Sutton (Lakey Dam), Northbridge (Meadow Pond, the Mumford River, and the Blackstone River), Uxbridge (the Blackstone Canal and River in and around River Bend Park, the West River, and the Mumford River), Mendon (Rock Meadow Brook), Douglas (the Mumford River), Hopedale (Hopedale Pond), and Blackstone (Fox Brook and the Blackstone River).

Removing this trash keeps waterways open for fish and wildlife, and for paddlers and anglers. The EarthDay Cleanup also improves the water quality of the Blackstone River by removing potential sources of contamination like the container of weed killer Round-Up found in Broad Meadow Brook in Millbury. The BRWA urges people to dispose of their general and hazardous garbage properly. Contact your town's health department for information on how to recycle or dispose of paint, electronics, lawn or pool chemicals, auto parts, and remodeling materials.

Following the cleanup, volunteers gathered at River Bend Farm’s Visitor Center in Uxbridge for pizza and refreshments provided by the BRWA with support from Hannafords of Uxbridge, Next Step Living, and Homefield Credit Union. Please thank these sponsors if you have the chance.
Peter Coffin shares the workings of a watershed and ways to protect it at the Alternatives/BRWA Clean & Green Fair.
kids gathered around watershed model demonstrated by Peter Coffin

As part of the annual EarthDay Cleanup, the BRWA partnered with Alternatives Unlimited, Inc. to sponsor a Clean and Green Fair at River Bend Farm. Volunteers viewed displays and demonstrations about watershed protection and terracycling. Seedling plantings and children’s activities were also provided. Next Step Living provided information on solar energy and more. Thank you to Alternatives for all their effort with the fair!


First Annual Family Fun Fishing Day
young boy and girl learning to fish.
More than 100 people came to River Bend Farm in Uxbridge on May 2 to enjoy the BRWA's first family fun fishing day, jointly sponsored by Alternatives Unlimited, Inc. As the photos illustrate, the weather was beautiful and the fish were jumping! George Peterson, Commissioner of the Mass Department of Fish and Game was on hand to welcome the eager anglers.
young boy fishing

The BRWA is extremely thankful for the loan of 50 rods and reels from the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. In addition, instruction on casting was expertly provided by staff from the Mass Department of Conservation and Recreation and by members of Trout Unlimited Central Massachusetts Chapter. Trout Unlimited also arranged for LL Bean to generously donate a fly rod kit as the grand raffle prize for the event! One of the youngest anglers came decked out in her tutu! Besides being so fabulously dressed, she was thrilled to reel in a 5" bluegill. Fishing, fun, and fashion - what a fabulous combination!
young angler dressed in a tutu


A Day on the Blackstone
On Saturday, June 6, the BRWA will host “A Day on the Blackstone.” The event will begin at the Mass DCR's River Bend Farm Visitor Center in Uxbridge with a one-mile walk along the Blackstone Canal. The event will continue with a leisurely paddle from Stanley Woolen Mill in Uxbridge to the Blackstone Gorge in Blackstone - a distance of about eight river miles.
Photo by: Susan Thomas
kids in a canoe

Along the way National Park Service Ranger Chuck Arning will talk about the importance of the Blackstone River and Canal to the American Industrial Revolution, share some folklore about the Blackstone Valley and give commentary at historical sites along the way.

This event will be limited to 30 canoes/kayaks and is open to all skill levels from beginner to expert paddlers. Shuttle service will be provided by Alternatives Unlimited, Inc. The cost of $25/person includes shuttle service, insurance, a commemorative t-shirt, a snack provided by Goretti’s Supermarket, and pizza following the event. Canoes will be available for use for an additional fee of $10. Please bring your own water.

A “Meet and Greet” with Ranger Chuck Arning will be held on May 27, 2015 at River Bend Farm Visitor Center from 6:45-8:00 p.m. Ranger Chuck will go over basic safety issues, changes that have occurred to the Blackstone River because of the snow melt, and safety considerations in some winding sections of the river. Attendance is highly recommended, especially for beginner paddlers.

To register, go to
or email
Deadline for registration is May 27, 2015.



May in National Meditation Month. What better place to seek inner peace than near a stream or pond in springtime when the ephemeral spring wildflowers are blooming, the trees are leafing out, the warblers are migrating through, and the butterflies are displaying!

5/19 Blackstone Paddle Club. A guided tour along the Turner Reservoir and Ten Mile River. 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. 215 Ferris Ave, Rumford, RI.   info
5/20 Blackstone River Watershed Council Annual Meeting. 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Environmental Center- Sycamore Landing 100 New River Road, Manville, RI.   info
5/20 Green Infrastructure and Green Jobs Webcast. Center for Watershed Protection. "This webcast will feature several programs around the country, and will highlight best practices for these types of programs, as well as critical lessons learned.”   info
5/26 Blackstone Paddle Club. A guided tour along the Quinsigamond River. 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. Launch from Riverview Apts, Grafton, MA.   info
5/27 BRWA's "A Day on the Blackstone Meet and Greet with Ranger Chuck Arning. 6:45-8:00 p.m River Bend Farm Visitor Center For event participants. See above for more information.  
5/28 BRWA Board Meeting. 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. 287 Oak St., Uxbridge.   info
5/30-6/4 2015 International Meeting of the Society of Wetland Scientists: Changing Climate, Changing Wetlands: Climate Impacts to Wetlands and the Role of Wetlands in Climate Change Adaptation and Carbon Mitigation. Providence, RI. "This conference will examine the role that wetlands play in the global carbon cycle, how wetlands provide climate adaptation services, and how wetlands are being impacted by our changing climate. Click here to register or for more info.
6/5-6/7 Celebrating Botanical Research! New England Botanical Club. Smith College, Northampton, MA. "Northeast botanists will showcase their activities and research, and botanical societies will brainstorm on opportunities for future research and collaboration." Free.   info
6/2 Central Mass Chapter Trout Unlimited Monthly Meeting. 6:30 -9:00 p.m. Auburn Sportsman's Club. 50 Elm Street, Auburn, MA.   info
6/3 Blackstone Paddle Club. A guided tour along the along the River Bend Farm Canal. 6:00 - 9:00 p.m. Launch from River Bend Visitor Ctr, Uxbridge, MA.   info
6/6 BRWA's "A Day on the Blackstone". See above for more information.  
6/6-6/7 Mass Wildlife Free Fishing Weekend: No license required for freshwater.   info



Endangered Species Day
May 15th is the day set aside to consider the country's "imperiled" species - both plant and animal. The Mass Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program is charged with monitoring and protecting these valuable state resources from Cape Cod to the Berkshires. Currently, over 400 species are state listed as endangered, threatened, or of special concern including the Blanding's turtles and blue-spotted salamanders, both of which use a variety of wetland and woodland habitats. Biologists with the NHESP conduct surveys, provide public education, and manage land that provides essential habitat for listed species. For more information, or to support this vital program, go to
Blue-spotted Salamander (Ambystoma laterale)
New Hampshire Fish and Game Department
Blue-spotted Salamander


Taking on Climate Change in MA: Update
Earlier this year, the Massachusetts House and Senate put forth bills (H.752; S. 451) that called for the "establishment of a comprehensive adaptation management plan in response to climate change." This proposed legislation was referred to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture on April 15.

Elements of the Act include the following: "effective prioritization for the resiliency, preservation, protection, restoration and enhancement of the commonwealth’s built and natural infrastructure", "a commitment to the adherence of sound management practices which shall take into account the existing natural, built and economic characteristics", and data on such things as drought, temperature change, and inland flooding. These are all relevant to the Blackstone River and its watershed.

The bill calls for the formation of a Comprehensive Adaptation Management Plan Advisory Commission that will include, among others, stakeholders and representatives with expertise in water supply and quality, recreation, ecosystems dynamics, and rivers and wetlands. It also calls for the development of regional plans that will include, among other things, an understanding of regional characteristics, including regional environmental characteristics.

The language of the bill repeatedly makes the connection between environmental and economic conditions and priorities. This is something conservation proponents have long been advocating for with mixed success. For example, intact, functioning wetlands provide a measurable economic return to local communities through flood control, water quality, erosion control, and recreation revenue to name a few. Policy leaders have been slow or reluctant to embrace this reality until the current focus on climate disruption. Better late than never?

A Fish and Wildlife Climate Action Tool is being developed by Mass DFW and UMass Amherst. Its purpose is to assist a variety of stakeholders to "maintain healthy, resilient natural resources and communities by providing easy access to spatially relevant climate change information and adaptation guidance. Based on your location and management needs, the tool will deliver information on climate change impacts and vulnerability, and identify potential adaptation strategies to begin addressing these challenges." You can provide input on the design at this survey site:


Grading our Lawmakers
In April, Mass Audubon released it most current Legislative Report Card detailing the actions of state representatives and senators on ten priority House roll calls and 14 priority senate roll calls. Drinking water, wastewater, energy efficiency, and environmental funding were key elements in the Report Card. Both the House and Senate were given average grades above 90. The full report can be found at:



Discovering Skull Rock Lock
By Pieter DeJong, BRWA Board Member

A nature walk is often not about a goal but about enjoying the path taken. This hike along the Blackstone Canal is a bit of both—the goal being to locate the remains of the Skull Rock Lock and find the carved stone depicted in the picture below. It’s the bottom hinge stone upon which the wooden gate would swing shut behind cargo barges on the Blackstone Canal, allowing the water to rise to the next level in the lock system. This is a great hike for families—giving the kids a history lesson and the goal of finding that keystone.
Can you find this stone?
hinge stone for the bottom gate at Skull Rock Lock

Today, finding a lock along the Blackstone seems like an easy activity, but the Skull Rock Lock has seen better days. Unlike the Millville Lock, the next lock downstream, which is the best preserved of all the locks along the Blackstone Canal, most of the stone walls of Skull Rock Lock have collapsed into the bed of the canal.

The hike starts at the parking area off Route 122 between Uxbridge and Millville (1.6 m south of Rte. 16, on your left; 2.8 m north of Central Street, on your right). Near the parking area guard rail, you’ll see the erosion controls put in place where a storm sewer line was recently constructed. Take the first trail to your left, which is marked with three blue ribbons, and you’ll be walking along the east side of the old canal—on the old towpath. You will follow the canal through a hemlock and pine woodland before transitioning to an upland hardwood forest. Note the skunk cabbage along the wetter soils in the bottomlands, as well as the woodland ferns sending up their “fiddleheads”.

Next, you’ll come to the remains of an old stone bridge that once crossed the canal. You can cross the canal on the remaining stones or scramble up the hill to a more defined trail on the west side of the canal. Either trail will take you to Skull Rock Lock. Keep an eye out for evidence of beaver activity evident on trees and shrubs along the trail. Further downstream, near a tributary to the Blackstone, the beavers have constructed a dam and beaver lodge. Soon, you will notice where the canal would have entered into the Blackstone River. Unlike many other canals, the Blackstone Canal utilized sections of the Blackstone River wherever there were no rapids and where adequate depth was available for the barge traffic. The lock was constructed just upstream of that connection to the Blackstone River.

The life span of the Blackstone Canal was brief—just over twenty years. The rise of the mill towns throughout the Blackstone Valley created the need for better transport from the Port of Providence to Worcester. Overland travel on poor 19th century roads was time consuming and expensive. Construction of the canal began in 1825 and was finished in 1828. Upwards of 1000 immigrants, mostly Irish, hand dug the canal using carks, picks, iron bars, and shovels. Forty-eight stone locks were constructed along its 45-mile length. The locks were only 10-feet wide with 80-feet between the large oak gates on either end. The average lift of a lock was 9–10 feet. The demise of the Blackstone Canal came soon after the Providence and Worcester Railroad was completed in 1847; the railroad was cheaper, faster, and could operate year round.

So—did you find the hinge stone for the bottom gate at Skull Rock Lock? Let us know how it went. Send us your photos and text to We hope you enjoy the hike!



recycle symbol enveloping planet Earth Pedal Power
Want to save the world and burn a few calories at the same time? Want to connect with neighbors and be more in touch with your natural surroundings? Then put down your car keys and pump up your bike tires the next time you need to run a local errand or two.

bicycle with groceries in cargo carrier.
Consider these rewards of transferring some of your routine auto miles to cycle miles: improving personal fitness, observing gardens and wild plants and animals, conversing with people in your community, reducing noise and carbon emissions, cutting back on gas and maintenance costs, and reducing sources of nonpoint source runoff (leaking car fluids).

Don't have a bike or need to get your old one tuned up? There are numerous bike shops in Central Mass staffed with experts that are passionate about getting new riders out on the roads. Want to extend errand-running to more of a workout? There are many bike groups within Mass that can suggest bike routes and groups to join. In addition to asking at bike shops, check out these websites.



“It is not half so important to know as to feel.” Rachel Carson
metal sculpture depicting mating dragonfly pair placed in a marsh.

There is so much charming about this sculpture, located at the Himalayan Garden and Sculpture Park in North Yorkshire, England. Dragonflies are a fascinating, impressive group of insects with their keen hunting skills and beautiful design. The placement of this aerial mating pair among the marsh grass adds a realism not found in indoor sculpture exhibits. And the way the photograph captures the reflection lends a whole other level of magic to the artwork.


Views & opinions expressed in linked websites do not necessarily state or reflect those of the BRWA.

Your input is crucial to this eNewsletter. If you have a local watershed-related story, information of interest to our subscribers, or comments about this publication, drop an email to the editor.

The Blackstone River Watershed Association (BRWA) has a mission to engage, educate, and advocate for improved water quality in the Blackstone River Watershed; its objectives are to:
  • Engage the public in watershed stewardship activities,
  • Educate members, supporters, and residents on watershed protection strategies, and
  • Advocate to local residents, community leaders, non-profit partners, and state regulators to take actions that will help to ensure our waterways continue to provide healthy habitat and enjoyable recreational opportunities.
The BRWA eNewsletter is published monthly by the Blackstone River Watershed Association. BRWA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Editor: Susan Thomas
Mailing address: BRWA, 271 Oak Street Uxbridge, MA 01569
Phone: 508-278-5200  Web:

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