Yesterday morning we got an early start, well early for weekend standards, on a three mile hike along Bloodswamp which is located in the corner of Barre, Oakham and Rutland. This whole area is part of the Ware River watershed land owned by the Commonwealth. The 25,000 acres were originally taken from the villages of West Rutland, Coldbrook Springs and White Valley to supplement the drinking water supply of the Wachusett Reservoir for homes in the greater Boston area. The aqueduct connecting the Ware River to Wachusett Reservoir was finished in 1931. Just two years later the aqueduct connecting the Quabbin Reservoir to Ware River was finished. For the most part, water from the Quabbin Reservoir flows through the aqueduct. Water from the Ware River is principally a back-up source.
The beavers are keeping the area flooded. Trees that filled the valley are now standing dead amid a variety of wetland plants. The great blue herons are nesting in a half dozen trees in Bloodswamp.
We also saw a rare liatris, the New England Blazing Star which is a species of special concern. The beautiful purple blooms were found along Pine Plains Road in disturbed areas near the dikes.
Three dikes were part of the loop hike. While it’s not confirmed, the assumption is that these dikes were built to increase the capacity of the Barre Falls Dam during flooding episodes. The Barre Falls Dam was authorized in 1941 after severe flooding in the Ware River valley in 1936 and 1938. The dam and dikes were finished in 1958 and have the capacity to hold back 7.9 billion gallons of water. In 1987 there were four or five days of rain and the dam was closed and saved downstream communities from certain flooding. Over 5 billion gallons of water was slowly released from the valley after the storm system.