Archive for May, 2005

Mill Brook Task Force Annual Report to the Concord NRC (12/1/2004)



Mill Brook Task Force Charge:     To restore and protect Concord’s Mill Brook and its watershed by developing, championing, and participating in the implementation of a Master Plan.   The goal is an ecologically sound and scenic stream with clean water and a protected watershed which will provide for passive recreation and will be aesthetically appealing.  The restored and protected Mill Brook will symbolize Concord‘s rich historical, cultural, and environmental legacies and the community’s capability for action.


A. Restore, protect and promote the Mill Brook

1. Mill Brook Taskforce group semi-annual Clean-up program

2. Mill Brook Taskforce member ongoing Clean-up program

Fran & john Neville by Chamberlain Bridge area each day

3. Catch Basin Tagging and citizen adoption program plus brochure development

            Catch non-point source pollutants .e.g. road or lawn run-off

4. Milldam Merchant communication program

            Mill Brook potential litter & garbage

5. Mill Brook Bridge signage and history documentation program

            Identify each bridge & the Mill Brook

6. Mill Brook Heywood Street bridge reconstruction on by DPW

            First bridge in Concord

7. Mill Brook (Thoreau?) foot-bridge on Cambridge Turnpike at CLP pole#26 by DPW

            Thoreau’s favorite entry to Town forest

8. Vortech storm water runoff treatment device installation to be done by DPW



B. Provide for passive recreation and public access

1. Thoreau’s Amble project path development and boardwalk $4k grant

            Path construction in town forest complete, boardwalk funded

2. Emerson’s foot-bridge and boardwalk program

            Emerson Association approval for boardwalk

3. Keyes Road parking lot Mill Brook walkway and knotweed eradication program

            Part of parking lot renovation

4. Keyes Road parking lot Milldam foot-bridge program

            Store owner acceptance being sought, original mill dam mill stones available



C. Public outreach

1. Riverfest participation each year with display

2. Walking with Walter Brain in Thoreau’s footsteps (2)

3. Walking with Russ Cohen and the plants he has eaten

4. Historic Mill Brook Evening with Robert Gross and Brian Donahue



D. Mill Brook Task Force Publications

1. Mill Brook Historic Tour*

2. Catch Basin Tagging Project*

3. Mill Brook Task Force Brochure*

4. Concord’s Mill Brook – Flowing through Time

*: Available online: http://www.concordnet.org/dplm/mill%20brook%20brochures.html






Mill Brook Taskforce Membership


Jack Crosby

Carole Gupta

Bruce Mac Alpine

John & Lorna Mack

Elizabeth Morris

John & Fran Neville

Allan Schmidt

et al.


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Starting at Emerson’s House
J 42°27’31" 71°20’44"
5.0 Exercising great caution walk a few yards right
on Lexington Rd and bear right onto Cambridge
Turnpike, passing on right the home of Ralph
Waldo Emerson (1828). Cross Cambridge Tpke to
access sidewalk on east side. Follow Cambridge
Tpk, crossing Mill Brook for the fourth time, to
utility pole #26
5.6Carefully re-cross the Turnpike and follow the
path into Hapgood Wright Town Forest
5.7Bear right at first tr jct. Pass marsh on right
6.0Bear left on tr at Fairyland Pond. Walk
clockwise halfway around the pond
6.2At a wooden bench, just before crossing pond’s
inlet brook, turn left up a trail. Climb past
Brister’s Spring. Turn right at top of hill and
follow tr to Walden St. Left on Walden St briefly
to Route 2
K 42°26’40" 71°20’25"
6.5 Use great caution at this multi-lane highway jct.
Cross Walden St and then cross Route 2 to Rte
126 and Walden Pond State Reservation

Source: http://www.serve.com/baycircuit/section6.pdf
Note: Brister’s Spring is located at 151 feet above mean sea level.
42 26′ 51.19565"N, 71 20′ 26.66675" W by GPS measurement

A photo of the bridge at the Cambridge Tpke. entrance is attached.

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Yes, I believe that the Walden Pond seepage and the Sandy Pond seepage are the two principal contributors to the Mill Brook that flow through Concord center.

Walden Pond seepage appears at Brister’s Spring as one branch of the two principal sources of the Mill Brook, the other being outflow seepage from Sandy Pond that flows under route 2 into Crosby’s Pond and thence under Cambridge Turnpike.

The Sandy Pond seepage merges with drainage from fields on either side of Old Bedford Road , and then flows under Hawthorne Lane and flows parallel to the north side of Cambridge Turnpike before joining the Walden Pond outflow from Fairyland Pond which flows parallel to south side of Cambridge Turnpike.

Eventually the two tributaries merge (twice) before the Mill Brook reaches Heywood Meadow to continue its journey through Concord Center and the Mill Dam.

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Dear Mill Brook Task Force member –

I regret having missed the final part of the Mill
Brook excursion with Walter Brain on 11/22/03 but a
prior commitment required me to leave at about the
point Walter was showing us the marvelous vernal pools
at the base of Brister’s hill. No doubt we all will
wish to return some starry night to see the stars
reflected in a vernal pool as Walter so beautifully
described it.

I found Walter’s narrated excursion along the Mill
Brook upstream from Emerson’s House mesmerizing, it
should be a required experience for all members of the

I suggest that other members of the MBTF record their
impressions and remembrances from that excursion to be
edited and distributed to all members of the MBTF and
also to be placed on file with other MBTF records as a
form of oral history of the Mill Brook as told by
Walter Brain, unforgettable experience, in my mind.

One of the first things I recall was Walter telling
about the history of the intersection of Heywood and
Walden St. Does anyone recall what historic name
Walter associated with that intersection?

The second thing I recall was walking behind the Ice
House and seeing a remarkable park bench perched on a
small rise overlooking the farm field behind the Ice
House, I wonder if that bench has any historical

Continuing down to the edge of the Brook I believe we
were all struck by the pristine nature of the edge of
the Brook, several people compared to an English
stream or canal, very striking, the nicest view of the
Mill Brook I have ever seen. Should this be a model
for the future of the Mill Brook in some locations?

Leaving the Ice House farm field we crossed a
bridge/culvert that I think Walter referred to as
Cargill’s Creek or am I mistaken?

We also explored several rows of trees that Walter
suggested may have been planted by the Town when it
had its own tree nursery in the vicinity of the
Hapgood Wright forest.

Continuing across a corn field with full corn cobs
still on the stalks after which we came to a field of
ankle deep grass that Walter described as once being
ringed by a running track.

After crossing that field we entered the Hapgood
Wright forest and followed a path which required
diligence to follow but for which there were snips of
colored cloth attached to trees and bushes to guide an
alert walker.

Continuing through the Forest we arrived at at a well
maintained trail that begins at the parking lot on
Walden Street, passes the western side of Fairyland
Pond and then loops back to Walden Street. Proceeding
on this path we came to fairyland Pond and noticed
there had been recent addition of gravel to the dam at
the Pond’s North end.

Jane Gordon also pointed out that the path at that
point is part of the Bay Circuit Trail which extends
through 21 towns in Eastern Massachusetts and linking
the parks and open spaces surrounding metropolitan
Boston. See: http://www.serve.com/bay-circuit/ for
more information. Jane said she has walked the entire

From the Fairyland Pond Dam we began the walk along
the base of Brister’s Hill heading toward Cambridge

Along the way Walter identified numerous plant species
as he had all during our excursion but I was struck by
the huge yellow Birch trees.

The high point of the trip for me was Walter showing
us numerous vernal pools while reminding us they are
best seen with starlight reflecting off the black
water, an experience worth returning for I am sure.

Unfortunately for me, at that point I realized I was
over due for prior commitment and took leave of the
group although I hated to do so because we were
approaching an area I know best from 30 years as a
Cambridge Turnpike resident.

I was extremely pleased to hear Walter say at the
start of our journey that the Cambridge Turnpike
entrance to the Hapgood Wright Forest was one of
Thoreau’s favorites and also that Hawthorne Lane was
once known locally in Hawthorne and Alcott times as
Lovers Lane, a road my wife and I follow hand in hand
every day as we walk from our home on Cambridge
Turnpike to Hawthorne Lane, then down Lexington Road
to Cambridge Turnpike and then home.

Would others of our walking group please tell me what
the can recall that Walter said from the time I left
the group until you finished the excursion?



Dear Alan,

Your memory is excellent, your report comprehensive. A couple of additions, which I hope others will correct, if need be:

Snowberries – a shrub with white berries that we encountered between the Emerson house and the Heywood MB Trail.

The intersection was called "Bitner Corner", I believe.

Just around the corner from the Heywood Bridge, Walter commented upon a Linden tree. As we walked behind the ice house site (I’m a little vague on the exact location), Walter identified a few trees as box elder/ash leave maple. He also noted both speckled and smooth alder trees.

Yes, Alan, I think Walter did refer to the Cargill Ditch (named after Hugh Cargill, who owned the land in that vicinity) at some point in the 18th century.) He also mentioned that ceramic pipes, some of them half-open, and therefore, "open to the sky," were used to drain the fields we crossed.

As we entered the Town Forest, Walter noted both tamarack and Norway pine. The latter he characterized as an invasive. Later in the walk, he commented that, when the hemlock die, the area will be soon covered by Norway pine, while the natural successor would be yellow birch.

You know, Alan, I didn’t think the pools Walter pointed out were vernal, but perhaps that shows my ignorance. I thought vernal pools were small kettle holes or other low-lying pockets of land that filled with water during spring melts. I got the impression that the pools in Fairyland mostly formed at the base of yellow birch and arose from the very high ground water in that area. Walter had a French(?) term for them – something like callecriche. Perhaps someone else recognized the term.

One other thing: Walter calls the Cambridge turnpike, especially where it crosses the MB, "veery alley" in the spring, when the marshes are filled with veeries.

It really was a great walk, and yes, a must for everyone on the MB Task force.


And yes, let’s do have a MB Task Force outing to Fairyland to see the stars in those pools on a warm clear night.

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Fairyland Pond is fed by Brister’s Spring which I suspect has as its source underground seepage from Walden Pond.

The natural environment surrounding Fairyland Pond is also very similar to its parent (Walden Pond) in that it has the appearance of a glacial outwash complete with drumlins all around Fairyland Pond

The elevation of the drumlins and Brister’s Hill are also similar to that of Walden Pond.

A walking trail around Fairyland Pond is also similar to the walking trail around Walden Pond, although somewhat more serene with far fewer visitors. In this respect the ambience of Fairyland Pond today has many similarities to the Walden Pond of Thoreau’s time.

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How could Thoreau not have known, or did he?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Allan H. Schmidt



Thoreau was a frequent visitor to Brister’s spring during his travels between Walden Pond and Concord. He described the spring as the source of the Mill Brook and speculated about Walden Pond potential inflows and outflows but he never seems to have considered that Walden Pond was seeping into the Mill Brook or into Brister’s spring.

In 2000 the USGS reported that Walden Pond probably seeps into the Mill Brook but did not suggest a Brister’s spring connection, although that seems quite likely given the seven foot water level difference between Walden Pond and Brister’s Spring 670 meters to its north, the direction of ground water flow.


“Commonly I rested an hour or two in the shade at noon, after planting, and ate my lunch, and read a little by a spring which was the source of a swamp and of a brook, oozing from under Brister’s Hill, half a mile from my field.”

“The approach to this was through a succession of descending grassy hollows, full of young pitch pines, into a larger wood about the swamp. There, in a very secluded and shaded spot, under a spreading white pine, there was yet a clean, firm sward to sit on.”

“I had dug out the spring and made a well of clear gray water, where I could dip up a pailful without roiling it, and thither I went for this purpose almost every day in midsummer, when the pond was warmest.”

Henry David Thoreau

For a photo of Brister’s Spring. B&W 7”x9.5”. N.d. Written in pencil on verso: “commonly I rested an hour or two in the shade at noon.”

go to:


Thoreau measured, drew plans and recorded Walden Pond’s X-Y and Z dimensions by surveying the Walden’s boundaries and depth in winter.

“In the early 1850s, Thoreau’s facility as a land surveyor became widely known and he supported himself by surveying through the 50s. Thoreau published two books in his lifetime and often gave lectures, but these were never profitable enough for him to give up his surveying. He saw surveying as an opportunity to pursue his real interest: observing the natural world around him.” "Surveying," he writes in the Journal, "seems a noble employment which brings you within hearing of [the birds]" (29 April 1856). In 1847, Thoreau described his life for the members of his Harvard class this way: "I am a School master–a Private Tutor, a Surveyor–a Gardener, a Farmer–a Painter, I mean a House Painter, a Carpenter, a Mason, a Day-Laborer, a Pencil-Maker, a Glass-paper Maker, a Writer, and sometimes a Poetaster."


(165 surveys and plans created by Thoreau are on file in the Concord Library and available on-line)


Thoreau expressed a curiosity about Walden Pond’s in-flows and out-flows. :

“[14] As for the inlet or outlet of Walden, I have not discovered any but rain and snow and evaporation, though perhaps, with a thermometer and a line, such places may be found, for where the water flows into the pond it will probably be coldest in summer and warmest in winter. When the ice-men were at work here in ’46-7, the cakes sent to the shore were one day rejected by those who were stacking them up there, not being thick enough to lie side by side with the rest; and the cutters thus discovered that the ice over a small space was two or three inches thinner than elsewhere, which made them think that there was an inlet there. They also showed me in another place what they thought was a "leach-hole," through which the pond leaked out under a hill into a neighboring meadow, pushing me out on a cake of ice to see it. It was a small cavity under ten feet of water; but I think that I can warrant the pond not to need soldering till they find a worse leak than that. One has suggested, that if such a "leach-hole" should be found, its connection with the meadow, if any existed, might be proved by conveying some, colored powder or sawdust to the mouth of the hole, and then putting a strainer over the spring in the meadow, which would catch some of the particles carried through by the current.”

16. The Pond in Winter Walden

But Thoreau’s writings never recorded a suspicion that Brister’s Spring may be fed by groundwater seepage from Walden Pond, just over the hill that separates them.

This is likely due to the fact that glaciation theory in geology was just evolving and being proposed by LouisAgassiz after his appointment as Professor of zoology and geology at Harvard in 1847.

In a 2000 study the USGS has reported that “Northeast of Walden Pond, the Concord municipal landfill and the trailer park are located on the north side of a ground-water divide; ground water north of the divide flows generally northward away from Walden Pond toward Fairyland Pond and Mill Brook, a tributary to the Concord River (see fig. 1)”

“Lake-derived ground water flows towards and discharges into the Sudbury and Concord Rivers or to wetlands and streams draining into these rivers (figs. 1 and 4).

Southwest of Walden Pond, between the bedrock high of Fairhaven Hill and Emerson’s Cliff, ground water discharges to Heywood’s Meadow and the Andromeda Ponds, which drain into the Sudbury River by way of Fairhaven Bay. The steep water-table gradient southwest of Walden Pond is caused by large water level differences (14 ft) between Walden Pond and discharging areas.

Northwest of Walden Pond, ground water discharges into an unnamed stream and wetlands draining into the Sudbury River or into the Mill Brook watershed that drains into the Concord River.”

Page 10

Geohydrology and Limnology of Walden Pond, Concord, Massachusetts


John A. Colman


Paul J. Friesz

Published 2000


For more information see my blog in the April Archive at:


or contact me via-mail at allanhschmidt@gmail.com

or telephone 978-369-8090

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