Presumpscot River, by Dusti Faucher
It seems like the most natural thing in the world, water flowing quickly over rocks…forming little eddies and pools as it makes its way from its source to the sea. But since we harnessed rivers and streams for our own uses, the natural flows of many streams do anything but flow quickly and abundantly as nature designed them to do.
Since the first settlers to Maine’s shores, we have used the awesome power of rivers to improve our lives. When there were no alternatives to using
The Presumpscot, once a rocky, swiftly moving river that bombed its way down from Sebago Lake, is one river whose flows are drastically changed from the
Today, with the removal of Smelt Hill dam, the river flows once again over Presumpscot Falls in the same manner it did in 1735. The reemerging pools and eddies are shelter for fish and the water is filled with oxygen as it tumbles over the rocks and ledges. It no longer blocks passage for migratory fish that swim up the river to spawn in the spring, or for larger predatory fish that chase the schools of smaller fish as a food source. Water levels are lower than the flooded conditions that once existed in the pond behind the dam, causing less shoreland erosion and less warming of the water temperatures. The lower segment of the river, above the former dam site, has
|Although the Smelt Hill dam is gone, the Presumpscot has eight more dams, which have altered the river. Its character is now that of a slow moving series of ponds, home to a small warm water fishery instead of its historical population of coldwater and migratory fish. Several waterfalls and rapids are flooded by the ponds behind the dams, and the natural aeration of the river is lost.
The watershed drains the most populated land area in Maine, including its fastest growing communities such as Windham, Gorham and Falmouth, as well as the city of Portland. While the surrounding towns are densely populated in some areas, the shores of the Presumpscot are not very built-up. There are small pockets of development, but large tracts of land are in farm fields or woodlands. As the towns in the watershed look to the future, the protection and restoration of this watershed is critical in maintaining
(photo Friends of the Presumpscot)
The story of the Presumpscot mirrors so much of Maine and New England’s history: Indian wars with settlers over the building of dams and taking of land,