A Reservoir Retreat near Salem End Road

In my quest to explore Framingham's reservoirs, I have spent countless hours trying to find legal access to the water's edge. I'm rarely successful, but now and again I find some nice places without too many NO TRESSPASSING signs. The bridge where Salem End Road crosses over Reservoir 1 offers good views of the reservoir, and is a good place to see wildlife.

This is the view from the bridge looking northwest towards route 9.

salem end rd bridge north

We saw people fishing the first time we visited. I blurred the image of the fishermen because fishing isn't permitted here.

salem end fishing

The usual sign warning about mercury in the fish.

salemend road bridge sign

The view is beautiful looking towards the south.


We looked down to see a gorgeous Painted Turtle sunning himself on a rock.

painted turtle

If you continue west on Salem End Road for just a few feet, you'll see a beautiful place. There is an ancient NO TRESSPASSING sign posted by the Commonwealth Of Massachusetts, but as far as I'm concerned, a sign has to be legible to be valid!

state tresspass

Behind the sign is a lovely body of water surrounded by old pines and young hardwoods.

reservoir ridge

The first thing I saw as I approached the water was a Canadian Goose. They may be common as grass, but I love how this picture came out. It reminds me of an antique painted postcard.


No one could convince me that these pines weren't planted by someone, but it must have been a LONG time ago. These are big trees!

reservoir ridge planted pines

What I thought was a pond is actually an inlet of the reservoir. I don't know why it's there, but it is man made and perfectly rectangular. It is standing water, though, so there is a slight odor of decay and you'll need bug spray to stave off mosquitoes. I stumbled across this rusty tank as I approached the open waters of the reservoir. I don't know what it was used for, but it seems as if no one has touched it recently.
reservoir ridge manhole

I sat down at the water's edge, and savored the scenery and the silence. This was one of the most beautiful and peaceful places I've ever been. I decided to call it my Reservoir Retreat. The view is lovely, too. If you look to the west you'll see the Salem End Road Bridge.

reservoir ridge view

Look towards the east and you'll glimpse the gatehouse and spillway on Winter Street.

reservoirridgetowinter street


Beaver or Muskrat at Dam 2?

We've all seen the Winter Street Dam and spillway, but the other dam on the Stearns Reservoir is hidden away and a little harder to find.


This dam actually separates reservoir #2 (Bracket) from reservoir #1 (Stearns). Since the Sudbury River flows from South to North, Reservoir #2 is the first of the three Framingham reservoirs. (Confusing, huh?) Here is a picture of the dam and gatehouse taken in 1910. The surrounding area look much different today!

I first glimpsed the dam from the very end of Edgewater Street, and thought there was some sort of mechanical device on the waterfall.

A closer look revealed the remains of a walkway over the dam. I guess no one crosses the dam these days.

To actually get to the dam, you need to find a dirt road on Winter Street between Ardmore Road and Crest Road. The access road is next to a pretty house with stone wall and a nice garden.


The dirt road has a chain across it, but the sign says "no vehicle access beyond this point." It doesn't actually say no people allowed.

As we approached the water, we realized the view was familiar - very familiar. We had seen this dam from the back deck and yard of a house on Ardmore last year. I desperately wanted to buy that house for the view alone! It was a very small house, though, and very expensive compared to other houses on the street. I think it may still be for sale!

dam2 arboro

On this side of the dam you are looking at the Bracket Reservoir. It was quite beautiful the day we visited; calm and serene.

A flock of Canadian Geese were roaming around the gatehouse as we approached. The closer we got, the more nervous they acted. When we kept on coming towards them, they fell into formation and marched right into the water.

One of the geese swam right up to us, as if to show us he was not afraid of us.

dam 2 goose

The water spills over the dam into the Stearns Reservoir, where it spills over the Winter Street dam back into the Sudbury River.

The pattern of the flowing water is impressive and beautiful.

When standing next to the gatehouse, you can just about see the Singletary Street Bridge towards the Northwest. I didn't even know there was a bridge on Singletary!

Then we saw the animal swimming across the reservoir. What kind of animal? We still aren't sure! It's either a beaver or a muskrat. I thought it was a beaver for sure, not only because his tail seemed large, but also because it was so cute. (I've seen a muskrat before. It was crossing the road near Lake Massapoag in Sharon, and it horrified me. It looked like a horrendously large RAT!It definitely had a long, skinny RAT tail!) This animal was adorable. I also loved the circles of water that surrounding him as he swam.


This little guy had a really cute face and very large eyes! His tail appeared quite wide, too - but not at every angle. It could have been an optical illusion.


Even when he dived under water right in front of us, we were at right angles to his tail. It looked thinner, but we may have only seen the side of it.

muskrat tail

He left quite a wake as he swam away from us!

muskrat wake

In the end, we concluded that it was probably a muskrat after all. He disappeared into the rocks at the reservoir's edge, which is where muskrats make their homes. Beavers don't usually live in rocks. There was no hint of beaver activity in the area, either. (I still think it was a beaver, though. If it was a beaver, it would be the first wild beaver I'd ever seen>)


A final look at Dam #2 on a lovely spring day. The Bracket Reservoir is to the left and the Stearns Reservoir is to the right.

dam 2 gatehouse

Reminder: The Sudbury River flows into reservoir 2 (Bracket) in Ashland. Both reservoir 2(Bracket)and reservoir 3(Foss) flow into reservoir 1 (Stearns). The outflow of reservoir 1(Stearns)at Winter Street is the Sudbury River continuing on it's way.


Tanager, Grosbeaks, Towhees, and MORE!

Memorial Day birding at the Sudbury Reservoir was a great success! My husband, my son and I walked along the northeast section of the reservoir on the Bay Circuit Path. Almost immediately we heard and saw a gorgeous Red Breasted Grosbeak in the trees.

Rose Breasted Grosbeak

You can't see the rose colored breast in these pictures, but you can't miss the flashes of red in the field. The word "Grosbeak" refers to the large, powerful beaks which are another very distinctive feature of these birds.

RoseBreasted Grosbeak

Then we saw a Scarlet Tanager! I consider this to be my first ever sighting of this bird, even though my mother tells me I saw them at our backyard feeders as a child. I almost missed seeing him on Monday, too!

scarlet tanager

My husband (who isn't an avid birder, by any means) was the first to spot him in the trees. When he called out that he saw a bright red bird, both my son and I assumed he meant a cardinal, and we almost didn't bother to look.


Thank goodness the Scarlet Tanager stayed put long enough for my son to recognize him, and long enough for me to see him myself! My son often sees these birds at the Broadmoor Audubon Sanctuary in Natick. He says they don't seem shy about people, and will often stick around long enough for you to get a good look at them.

scarlet tanager II

We saw many, many Towhees that morning, but getting a good photo of a bird that rarely sits still is a challenge. The first Towhee we saw was a female. The females have the same markings as the males, but are brown where the males are black. This female was jumping backwards in a pile of last year's leaves, which is how they look for bugs. The males we saw were singing as they perched on various treetops, like this one. It is a poor photo, but a good representation of typical Towhee behavior.


A silhouette of a singing Towhee.

towhee sillouette

I decided this was a family of cormorants based on their coloring. The juvenile Cormorants are lighter in color than the adults, and look brown instead of black.

cormorant family copy

The younger bird in this photo is striking a typical Cormorant pose. Cormorants often stand like this, with wings outstretched in the sun.

cormorant family 2

While watching the Cormorants I saw a truly terrible sight: a desperately frightened squirrel swimming across the reservoir! I didn't even know squirrels could swim - and I don't think this squirrel knew it, either. He looked terrified! You'll be happy to know that he made it safely onto the shore, and he seemed none the worse for his experience.

scared squirrel swimming copy

Chickadees are hardly exotic, but I like this image of a chickadee in the wild. We are used to seeing them at backyard feeders, but this one preferred to catch his own dinner!


We saw numerous Baltimore Orioles on the forest path as we headed back to the car. By then the sun was directly overhead, though, so none of the Oriole pictures did them justice. The last image from our expedition is still unidentified. It is not an Eastern Kingbird, but I'm fairly sure it is a member of the flycatcher family. It's upper beak is black and the lower beak is yellow-orange, and it had a distinctly yellow tint on it's belly. I'm guessing it could be a Great Crested Flycatcher, or an Eastern Phoebe, or an Eastern Peewee . . . or something else. I really have no clue. I do know one thing, though - we had a great birding day at the Sudbury Reservoir!



Grey Fox in the Backyard!

I've seen foxes before, but I never saw a fox like this before! Especially in my own backyard. This is a Grey Fox (Urocyon cinereargenteus). According to eNature.com, the Grey Fox is "active primarily at twilight and at night," and it was twilight when we saw this guy through the window.

It is really more silver than grey, and it also has red markings, which was a little confusing when trying to ID the species. I almost thought it might have been a baby coyote for a second, but it is clearly a fox. Grey foxes are as common as Red foxes in Massachusetts, but this was the first time I've had a really good look at one. It's adorable!

Grey Foxes eat fruit as well as small animals and large bugs, such as grasshoppers. They are monogamous, and live 6 - 10 years in the wild. The truly amazing fact about Grey foxes is that they climb trees! "They have strong, hooked claws that allow them to scramble up trees to avoid predators or to get fruit. They descend primarily by jumping from branch to branch,"(Animal Diversity Web). That I'd like to see!


Living on the Edge (of the aqueduct)

The Hultman Aqueduct. A familiar site in Framingham and in other towns. The Hultman was intended to be one of two pressure tunnel aqueducts bringing water from Quabbin to Boston when it was completed in 1940. They ran out of money for the second tunnel during WWII, and never had enough money to finish it. For 60 years or so, the 18 mile Hultman aqueduct was the sole supplier of Boston's water.

Hultman Aqueduct

I am one of many people that live adjacent to the Hultman Aqueduct. I happen to live near a portion of the aqueduct that has a very steep slope. (notice the Pine Plantation on the south side of the aqueduct)

aquaduct up

If you run down the hill, it's hard to stop yourself. If you walk up the hill, you will get winded. Kids were sledding down the hill this past winter.

aquaduct down

For at least 10 or 15 years, it has been known that there are leaks in the Hultman Aqueduct. If the leaks led to the complete failure of the water supply system for Boston and other MWRA communities (such as Framingham), it would have been a nightmare of unimaginable scope. Attempts to fix the worst leaks without a second tunnel in place were nerve-wracking and not entirely successful.

hultman fxing leaks

In 2003, a new underground tunnel was completed under the Hultman. The plan had always been to close the Hultman for repair and rehabilitation after the second tunnel was online, and the Hultman was closed for repairs in 2004. I don't know if they left water in the tunnel when it was closed. Without water inside, the tunnel might collapse, for one thing. A project to locate all the leaks was stated in 2005. Infrared cameras and ground penetrating radar were tools used to identify the location of the leaks. I assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that the tunnel would probably have to contain water to use such tools effectively. (The planted Red Pines are seen here, as well.)

Infrared searches for leaks

This survey identified 18 Major leaks. More than 20 smaller leaks were found. as well. Portions of the Hultman with severe leaks were then dug up and tested for structural integrity.

aqueduct exposed

I located a map of the most severe leaks in Framingham on the web. I noticed that a major leak is on the crest of the hill above my house. This is the hill that pours water into my house and yard, although that would happen whether the aqueduct leaked or not. Obviously, a whole lot of other people are in close proximity to a major leak, as well. What does that mean to you?

leaks framingham hultman

Fixing the Hultman is scheduled to begin soon, if it hasn't already. Money for the project is allocated in the 2009 Massachusetts budget. People living near the Hultman aqueduct are accustomed to a quiet, "nature preserve" like atmosphere. I suspect that quiet atmosphere will soon be replaced by a full blown construction zone pretty soon. (note Red Pines in photo)

hultman repairs

Say it ain't so! Please! Tell me that I'm mistaken. Tell me that these repairs have already been completed in Framingham! I don't want this!