Monday, March 24, 2008

Photos: Littleville Lake and Spillway

3.1 mile-long Littleville Lake, in Huntington, Massachusetts, is the result of an Army Corps of Engineers constructed earth and stone dam that restricts the flow of the middle branch of the Westfield river as a method of flood control. Dedicated on October 5, 1965, the nearly quarter-mile long dam was put to the test in the Spring of 1987, when snow melt and April showers brought not only flowers, but 53 feet of flood waters lashing against the unmoving earthen wall of man, the fate of many inextricably tied to the quality of human engineering skills. Those skills proved their value indeed, as the lake reached a harrowing 90% of total capacity before peaking and receding, leaving lots of folks downriver between Huntington and West Springfield to breathe easier.

Here are some photographs of Littleville Lake and spillway, snapped this past Easter Sunday morning.

A long-cold ice fisherman's fire amplifies the quiet desolation of the frozen lake, a poignant reminder of man's lonesome battle for survival: A stark and basic truth unable to be pushed to the back of the mind absent the comfort of manufactured forgetfulness.

The ice was groaning and popping, the lake anxious to break through its Winter shell and greet the newly turned season despite temperatures below 20f and a wind howling steady and strong. These orange booms at the southern end of the lake signal the border between the water's public area and the restricted area closer to the dam. Boats are allowed with a maximum motor size of 10 hp and can be launched from the ramp located off Goss Hill Road. Canoes can be launched from the Dayville section of the middle branch, at the northern tip of Littleville Lake. Both areas offer ample parking.

The northern face of Littleville Dam stretches across the valley, joining hilltops, a bulwark against the watery doom that 'twould be certain in its absence. Two 4' X 8' gates control the flow of water allowed to continue beyond the earthen sentry to join the west and east branches of the trio that becomes the main branch of the Westfield river, which flows through Huntington, Russell, Woronoco, Westfield and West Springfield, merging near Springfield with the steady waters of the Connecticut river on its incessant hurry southward, destined for Long Island Sound.

The south side of the dam from the small parking area at the end of Littleville Road, off Route 112 in Huntington. Beyond the grassy hill, in the cut of land below the bridge, Littleville Lake spillway cascades o'er granite between stone walls forever reshaped by the swirls and pools and eddies of the turbulent stream. I saw a robin hunting worms on my walk over to the spillway: Could Spring truly be upon us?

The roaring cold presence of the rushing river drowns out shouted words as though they were whispers cast careless to the wind. One must be careful on the slippery stones alongside the spillway: Though the deep upper pools with their promise of trout are a powerful lure, a fall into the icy water is a scenario more likely to end in tragedy than in triumph.

The river flows on, testing its sodden banks' limits in an annual rite of Spring. Although no swimming is allowed in Littleville spillway or lake, they are great spots to wet a line, and a draw for local trout fishermen year 'round. Hiking trails on both sides of the lake allow visitors access to many miles of shoreline. For more information, hours and directions, check out the Army Corps of Engineers Littleville web site, and don't forget nearby Knightville Dam on the east branch, another integral part of the Westfield River Valley flood control project. For some photographs of the Knightville area, take a look at the EWM post 'Photos: The Westfield River's East Branch.'

As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.

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