Archive for November, 2006

The Division of Natural Resources sponsored a guided tour today with esteemed naturalist Peter Alden and Thoreauvian Walter Brain in the Town Forest.  A group over 30 enthusiastic walkers ambled along the new 0.5-mile trail including crossing the newly completed Cargill’s Creek (originally Ditch)  Bridge.  (see below)

The walkers made their first stop at Brister’s Spring, made famous by Thoreau as the headwater of the Mill Brook and a favorite drinking spot. 

“Commonly I rested an hour or two in the shade at noon, after planting, and ate my lunch, and read a little by a spring which was the source of a swamp and of a brook, oozing from under Brister’s Hill, half a mile from my field. The approach to this was through a succession of descending grassy hollows, full of young pitch pines, into a larger wood about the swamp. There, in a very secluded and shaded spot, under a spreading white pine, there was yet a clean, firm sward to sit on. I had dug out the spring and made a well of clear gray water, where I could dip up a pailful without roiling it, and thither I went for this purpose almost every day in midsummer, when the pond was warmest.”

Henry David Thoreau


Brute Neighbors

“But this small village, germ of something more, why did it fail while Concord keeps its ground? Were there no natural advantages — no water privileges, forsooth? Ay, the deep Walden Pond and cool Brister’s Spring — privilege to drink long and healthy draughts at these, all unimproved by these men but to dilute their glass.”

Henry David Thoreau

Chapter 14: Former Inhabitants and Winter Visitors

  Walter Brain pointed to two tree stumps adjacent to the spring (fig. 1)  that he believes were full-grown in Thoreau’s day as photographed by Gleason ca. 1905.   (fig. 2)

Allan Schmidt distributed a copy of his research notes suggesting that Walden Pond groundwater seepage serves as the headwaters for Brister’s Spring. 

Thoreau was a frequent visitor to Brister’s spring during his travels between Walden Pond and Concord.  He described the spring as the source of the Mill Brook and speculated about Walden Pond potential inflows and outflows but he never seems to have considered that Walden Pond was seeping into the Mill Brook or could be the source for Brister’s spring. 


In 2000 the USGS reported that Walden Pond probably seeps into the Mill Brook but did not suggest a Brister’s spring connection, although that seems quite likely given the seven foot water level difference between Walden Pond and Brister’s Spring 670 meters to its north, the direction of ground water flow.  (fig. 5)   For more information see my blog at: spaces.msn.com/AllanHSchmidt1935/ 

Peter Alden pointed out that although purple loosestrife Lythrum salicaria L. was currently a rampant invasive species in Concord, a far more troublesome invasive would be Phragmites australis a tall reed capable of growing taller and thereby blocking sunlight.  Peter estimated that such plants will crowd out loosestrife in the near future.  Examples of reed-like plants could be seen growing in the south end of Fairyland Pond.  Scientific name: Phragmites australis Cav. tp://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/aquatics/commonreed.shtml


Walter Brain described research he had done to map the location of 100 springs in the Concord area.    He pointed out several springs near or along the edge of Fairyland Pond.  Walter also attributed the loss of native species to citizen neglect and in some cases “plant poaching”, accidental and/or intentional.  Another factor contributing to the loss of native species has been deer foraging which tends to prefer native plants.  Peter suggested a need to manage the deer population in the near future, to ensure their and our health and protect native plants.



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