Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Brooks of Easton, Mass.



This is a short medley of some underwater video I took in 2009 and 2010 in a few of the little headwater brooks in Easton, Massachusetts. Rather than wait for the 'full blown' coverage I'd like to do, this will suffice for now.

The first brook has no formal name. We've always called it, unimaginatively, 'the brook.' It's behind the house where I grew up on Linden Street in North Easton. It actually starts not far from Long Pond and flows east behind Canton Street, then between Linden and Holmes Streets, under the railroad tracks then into the Ames estate where it joins Whitman Brook on Elm Street. All of the video looking up at the trees is actually through the water -- that's how clear the water is.

This brook often dries up in the summer during dry spells, except for isolated pools, so its aquatic population is mostly insects, particularly water striders (Jesus bugs) and the occasional crayfish. This is from July 31, 2010, one of the hottest days of the summer. We had just gotten a big thunderstorm so the brook came up a bit from being almost dry. Since it was so hot I went out back of my mother's house and found this one tiny pool that was about a foot deep and took a dip. The water felt unbelievably good -- it was about 65 degrees probly. And clean !!!

The second brook is actually in East Mansfield. It is a little tributary of the Canoe River that comes into Canoe River campground at the 'tenting site' there. It's really pretty. This is about 200 yards up a red maple kind of swampy thing from the border of the campground. We had gotten a big thunderstorm the night before so the water is a bit turbid. This little brook has native bog iron in its bed.

The third brook is Black Brook at the old railroad grade in the Hockomock Swamp in South Easton. Black Brook is aptly named since unless the water is less than six inches deep it is so colored by tannic acid you can't see the bottom. It's not that the water is muddy or murky -- it's crystal clear -- but it is clear like reddish root beer is clear. The last clip is not underwater, but just looking down at the little pool just above the railroad grade with the reflection of the trees overhead.

The still photo at the end is my brother Tim standing above Queset Brook along Sullivan Ave. where it goes underneath the railroad tracks. This is what William Chaffin called "Trout Hole Brook" in his History of Easton from 1888. It is the one brook in Easton which has good, documented evidence of formerly supporting native brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis). It lost its native brook trout population in the late 1700s when it was dammed up for the Ames Shovel Works, which caused the water to become too warm and polluted to support native brook trout. This section of Queset Brook could support native brook trout again if several of the old dams on it were removed, which they should since they serve no useful purpose except to louse up the brook.

What's interesting is how each brook has a completely different water color. The Linden Street brook is crystal clear; the little Canoe River tributary is cream soda colored and Black Brook is almost ruby red. This is from the varying amounts of tannic acid leaching into the water from decaying leaves.

The music is an excerpt of a little improv song I made up around 1994 on a cheap Casio keyboard. A few months ago I put an electric bass guitar on it which thickens it up a bit. The melody line is a transparent rip-off of the melody line of "Third Stone from the Sun" by Jimi Hendrix with various fake embellishments.

[Note: The compression used by youtube doesn't like underwater video that much; on my computer it looks best at the '360p' setting.]

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