Tag Archives: fort river

The Cure for Cabin Fever at Fort River

Winter fun for everyone!

Winter is here, and so are cold temperatures and snow. During the winter months in the Northeast, many people find themselves feeling restless with “cabin fever”. Thankfully, the National Wildlife Refuge System provides fun winter activities at the Fort River division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge in Hadley, Massachusetts throughout the winter! Whether it be snowshoeing the trails of the refuge, tracking wildlife through tracks and signs in the snow, wildlife viewing and photography, learning about the subnivean zone, hunting, or visiting the Connecticut River exhibit and watershed demonstration table at the Springfield Science Museum, the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge provides winter fun for everyone!

Snowshoeing at the Fort River Division trail allows you to continue your outdoor adventures all year long, and get a first hand look at wildlife in the winter. Snowshoeing is a great way to access and explore areas that would otherwise not be accessible during the snow-covered winter months in New England.

Who goes there? Winter is a great time to find out! While exploring the trail of Fort River, keep an eye out for animal tracks and sign in the snow to discover the wildlife present and their behavior. Tracking may reveal an animal’s size, gate, diet, and habits, and is a source of wonder and imagination. A 2 page animal track identification guide will be available for viewing in the main kiosk at the start of the trail – use this visual to help you identify the wildlife tracks left in the snow.

Evidence of an owl hunting prey under the snow.

Raccoon tracks.

When planning a visit to the Fort River Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, don’t forget to pack your binoculars and camera! The Fort River trail offers picturesque views of birds and other wildlife, providing us with the opportunity to see the natural world differently through a camera lens. Allow yourself to be still, silent, and humbled at the multiple overlooks along the trail, where you’ll have the perfect vantage point for wildlife viewing and photography. A bird identification guide is in the main kiosk at the start of the trail – use this visual as a guide for identifying the birds you see from the trail.

Male and female northern cardinals.

For the winter months, the story book kiosks along the Fort River trail will feature “Over and Under the Snow” by Kate Messner, a children’s book that explores the secret kingdom under the snow where animals live throughout the winter – the subnivean zone. Be sure to check the Friends of Fort River Facebook page to keep updated on books featured in the story book trail kiosks!

An illustration of animals living in the subnivean zone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunting is a fun activity that offers a sense of freedom and self-reliance that cannot be matched.” The Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge offers regulated hunting opportunities at Fort River and other divisions of the refuge, including the Nulhegan Division in northern Vermont and the Pondicherry Division in New Hampshire. It is essential that all hunters understand and comply with both refuge-specific and state hunting seasons and regulations. Wondering how regulated hunting contributes to conservation and the mission of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service? Check out A Non-hunter’s Guide to Hunting to learn more!

A mother and calf moose at the Nulhegan Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge.

On days where you’d prefer an indoor expedition, check out the Connecticut River Exhibit at the Springfield Science Museum in Springfield, Massachusetts! The exhibit features 5 interactive educational kiosks, including a salmon game, a grip strength comparison between your hand and the talon of an American Eagle, and fun facts about the Connecticut River Watershed. Don’t miss the Conte Refuge’s watershed demonstration table, where you can learn what defines a watershed, how watersheds are formed, what ecological services watersheds provide, and how you can do your part in ensuring watersheds stay healthy and clean for wildlife and people alike.

Part of the Connecticut River Exhibit at the Springfield Science Museum.

 

The Norwottuck People of the Connecticut River Watershed

This story is a part of a Native American Blog Series in observance of National Native American Heritage Month.

During the peak of fall in September, visitors to the Fort River Division of the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge time-traveled to the ancient Native American heritage site of the Norwottuck people (who belong to the Algonquin Native American culture). Travelers stepped back 8,000 years to discover that many Native tribes lived and thrived in the Connecticut River watershed for thousands of years. Guests excavated in a sand-box archaeological dig, viewed projectile point arrowheads used for subsistence hunting and fishing by Native Americans thousands of years ago, and learned about the 1630’s contact period of European settlers. Visitors finished their journey into current day, knowing that Native American Nations still embrace their culture and practice their sovereignty in Massachusetts and across the United States. Walking along the bridge, visitors realized that beneath them lay thousands of years of important history that lives on in the culture of Native American Tribes today.

As the Jr. Native American Liaison for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, I was able to tell this story and share my Native culture in the process. In late May, I joined the Student Conservation Association internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service having never been to the Northeast before. Coming from the prairie and Black Hills of South Dakota, Massachusetts was a long way from home. However, I was passionate to serve Tribes in whatever capacity I could. I now work with Southeastern and Northeastern Native American Tribes through my position.

As an Oglala Lakota-Sioux Native American, I sought the opportunity to learn more about Tribes closer to the Atlantic. Researching technical reports of the Fort River Division creation (containing archaeological information), New England Tribes encyclopedia (Bruce, 1978), and “Historic and Archaeological Resources of the Connecticut River Valley” (Galvin, Massachusetts Historical Commission), I learned the rich past and present of Tribes along the Connecticut River. Using creativity, passion, and accredited resources, I designed a Native American Storybook of the Norwottuck, Algonquin people. The 28-page story was displayed on kiosks along the Fort River Division 1.2 mile loop trail throughout the month of September.

On Saturday, September 16th, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, invited the public to join them in activities to go along with the Storybook. Through partnership with Tim Binzen, the Service’s Native American Liaison for the Northeast and Southeast, and Eric Johnson, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Archaeologist, projectile point artifacts were on display for visitors. Children, parents, students, and trail-walkers alike, got to hold an arrowhead dating back 8,000 years.

EA at Fort River Trail

Later in the month, the External Affairs office of the Northeast Regional office of the Fish and Wildlife Service also visited the Storybook Trail at Fort River and each individual had the opportunity had to read a page from the story of Keme and Sokanon.

I hope that reading that storybook on that sunny day in September changed Fort River visitors, including my own colleagues at the agency. Student Conservation Association intern, Ben Whittlebee, remarked, “When I hold this arrowhead, I feel a little bit closer to the people who lived here before me. It’s like having a piece of them with me.”

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Tim Binzen, Native American Liaison for the Northeast and Southeast and former Refuge Archaeologist led the walk and discussed the importance of projectile points in Native American culture. Photo Credit: Leah Hawthorn

Tim Binzen mentioned that all projectile points tell a story of the people. These points were shaped differently and specifically for different uses and those methods were passed down from generation to generation. Christine Eustis, also a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee and visitor to the Storybook, mentioned that she had learned so much. She looks at wigwams and tepees with a different perspective and she understands more of the Native Americans of this area. Several visitors can now identify jewelweed and pokeberry, plants that were and are important to New England Tribes.

natives

Keme (thunder in Algonquian language) and Sokanon (rain in Algonquian language) are fictional brother and sister from the Norwuttuck Tribe in the Storybook, who explain their story of seasons, cultural activities, and timeline events of their home.

The Storybook concept is designed for children, but we can all learn from it.  At the end of the story, Sokanon and Keme discuss the sovereign nations recognized in the United States today. In fact, there are 567 federally recognized Tribes in the United States.  including nine Tribes in Massachusetts, seven of which are state-recognized.

The story says, “Communities are led by a Sachem (similar to a Chief, President, or Chairman). In 1885, English colonists mentioned that it was common for a woman to lead a village by virtue or hereditary descent as sachem. This holds true today for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head, as Cheryl Andrews-Maltais is the Chairwoman, leader of the tribe”. The sister, Sokanon, goes on to say, “I’d like to be Sachem when I grow up”. The brother, Keme, responds, “I think you’d make a great leader, numis (sister in Algonquian)!”  

I enjoyed learning about the Native Tribes of the Connecticut River watershed. My experience sharing the story with children and adults in Hadley was so incredible. If you missed the Storybook walk, you can still read Keme and Sokanon’s story through this download: Norwottuck Storybook

The Fort River Division of Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge is open throughout the year. You may plan your to Hadley, Massachusetts anytime! https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Silvio_O_Conte/about/ma.html#fort

Just downstream of the former dam site at Amethyst Brook. Credit: Meagan Racey/USFWS

A favorite Massachusetts stream loses a dam – and gains aquatic habitat

 

Just downstream of the former dam site at Amethyst Brook. Credit: Meagan Racey/USFWS

Just downstream of the former dam site at Amethyst Brook. Credit: Meagan Racey/USFWS

This post originally appeared on National Geographic’s Freshwater Initiative in Water Currents on March 6. Author Sandra Postel is director of the Global Water Policy Project, Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society, and author of several books and numerous articles on global water issues. Funding for the Bartlett Rod Shop Company dam removal came from a variety of sources, including our agency, a natural resources damage settlement with Holyoke Coal Tar, Mass Environmental Trust, FishAmerica Foundation/NOAA Partnership, Clean Water Action and American Rivers/NOAA Partnership. The natural resource trustees for the Holyoke Coal Tar settlement consist of MassDEP, NOAA, and our agency.

In early January, on a visit back to my old stomping grounds in western Massachusetts, I trekked along the snowy banks of Amethyst Brook, a beautiful headwater tributary in the Connecticut River watershed. My mission was to see the site of a dam removed in late 2012.

I’d hiked through this area in the towns of Amherst and Pelham many times before, but had never sought out the stretch of stream blocked by the structure known as the Bartlett Rod Shop Company Dam, after the fly rod manufacturer who began operating alongside the stream in 1864. The dam itself – a 20-foot (6-meter) tall, 170-foot (52-meter) wide rock structure – had blocked the brook since 1820.

An excavator prepares to remove the first piece of the Bartlett Rod Shop Company Dam. Credit: Meagan Racey/USFWS

An excavator prepares to remove the first piece of the Bartlett Rod Shop Company Dam. Credit: Meagan Racey/USFWS

Over the decades, the mill had transitioned through many uses, including a woodworking shop, a machine shop, a maker of boiler tube cleaning equipment, and finally to HRD Press, a provider of products and services for human resources development. While the company owned the dam, it didn’t need it.

After receiving a dam safety order from the state in 2007, HRD Press began working with government agencies and conservation groups to study the idea of taking the obsolete dam down. In 2010, Massachusetts officials named the dam’s removal a priority project for river restoration – and by late 2012, thanks to a broad partnership of federal and state agencies, the two towns, and conservation groups, the dam was dismantled.

Our Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber with Robert Carkhuff, publisher at HRD Press and owner of the dam. "Restoring Amethyst Brook plays an important role in protecting the Fort River watershed, a valuable part of the Service's Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge and home to brook trout, sea lamprey, Atlantic salmon and the endangered dwarf wedgemussel," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber. "We are proud to support the project through Service programs and as a trustee for the Holyoke Coal Tar settlement for damages to natural resources."

A number of environmental officials joined partners and others to celebrate the restoration of Amethyst Brook and the removal of the dam in October 2012. Here, our Northeast Regional Director Wendi Weber stands with Robert Carkhuff, publisher at HRD Press and owner of the dam. “Restoring Amethyst Brook plays an important role in protecting the Fort River watershed, a valuable part of the Service’s Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge and home to brook trout, sea lamprey, Atlantic salmon and the endangered dwarf wedgemussel,” said Wendi. “We are proud to support the project through Service programs and as a trustee for the Holyoke Coal Tar settlement for damages to natural resources.”

The first piece of the dam comes out! Credit: Meagan Racey/USFWS

The first piece of the dam comes out! Credit: Meagan Racey/USFWS

In the months since, Amethyst Brook has begun to heal.

Freed by the dam’s removal, sediment has moved downstream. So has organic matter in the form of leaves and woody debris, critical to aquatic food webs. Water temperature has dropped, and oxygen levels have increased.

With the dam gone, trout can now move further upstream to high-quality coldwater habitat.

And below the dam site, a stream bottom of gravel and cobbles has formed – habitat just right for the spawning of the migratory sea lamprey.

A snake-like fish, the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) migrates from the ocean to freshwater to reproduce. In the Connecticut River system, the fish moves upstream from Long Island Sound in Connecticut, passes Holyoke Dam in Massachusetts with the help of a fish lift, and then travels further north and into side tributaries in search of spawning grounds.

After depositing eggs and milt (sperm) in a protected nest of stones, the adult fish die. About two weeks later, the eggs hatch. The larvae then drift downstream and burrow into a sandy stream bottom. Young sea lamprey will remain in the river system for up to ten years before heading back to the ocean. After a year or two at sea, it will head up river to spawn, completing its life cycle.

Just six months after the Bartlett Dam was demolished, conservationists were thrilled to find sea lamprey spawning in Amethyst Brook, just below the old dam site.

Seeing this native fish spawning was “a great sign of improving conditions in the river,” writes Amy Singler, associate director of river restoration with American Rivers, one of the conservation partners involved in removing the dam. …Keep reading this post at NatGeo!