|Footbridges beckon hikers into Presumpscot Preserve|
|Daunting Rapids on Presumpscot River|
|Blueback herring & American shad return to Presumpscot Falls (D. Watts)|
Along with other hikers and bikers, we were lured by the roar of the Presumpscot Falls. The original Wabanaki residents and later European settlers found the river offered abundant resources.
If we were to travel back in time to the Presumpscot of the 1730s, we wouldn't hear the impressive roar of the falls. Instead, we would find an early colonial dam interrupting the flow of the Presumpscot River and the free passage of anadramous fish populations. In 1739, the Wabanaki leader Polin described the devastating impact of colonial use of the Presumpscot River:
"We are most aggrieved that the River Presumpscot is dammed up so that the passage of fish, which is our food, is obstructed, and what Col. Westbrook did promise about two years ago that he would leave a place open in the dam and that the fish should have free passages up said river into the pond in proper season, but he has not done so, and we are therefore deprived of our proper food."
Historic maps available on Maine Memory Network detail the degree of modification that Polin described; the lower Presumpscot riverbanks once hosted various structures, millworks, weirs, and dams. Fast forward nearly three centuries and virtually none of those historic uses remain visible today.
Remarkably, the Presumpscot River Ecosystem Restoration Project removed the Smelt Hill Dam in 2002, uncovering the tumultuous Presumpscot Falls and restoring several miles of the lower Presumpscot River to its natural flow. My advice? Take the time to explore the newest chapter in the Presumpscot River's environmental history. It's a beauty.