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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Moore's Falls Conservation Area and Historical Canal

For one of my recent lunchtime exploration destinations, I decided to check out the Moore’s Falls Conservation Area in Litchfield, NH. Moore’s Falls is a length of rapids on the Merrimack River which drops 6 feet in elevation over 650 feet in distance.

Before I get into my report, it’s notable to mention that Moore’s Falls was the location of a canal that once operated there. It was one of many canals along the Merrimack, which were located from Concord, NH to Newburyport, MA. These canals helped allow boats to navigate the rough river during the years of the textile mills. Moore’s Falls specifically was a 2000 foot long tow path canal off the east bank of the river. It is believed to have had three lock gates measuring 10 feet by 82 feet to help raise and drop the ships past Moore’s Falls. At the end of this blog, I have supplied some links for your reading pleasure that provide more information about this canal and the history of the Merrimack River canal network.

This shot is from Google Earth. I labeled the Tow Path and my "assumed" Lock
Gate locations. The Lock Gate locations are mostly covered with earth and trees now.

The Moore’s Falls Conservation Area is located on the west side of NH Route 3A in Litchfield where powerlines cross the road. There’s a kiosk at the parking area with some limited information. Behind the kiosk the trail heads down into the woods parallel to the powerlines. The trail is pretty wide and is more like a woods road than a trail.

Trailhead

After about 0.25 miles, the trail comes to an intersection with an old trolley track. I couldn’t find much information on the history of this trolley line. However, for present day, it looks like it’s maintained pretty well as part of the trail network.

Trolley Bed

Artifacts found on Trolley Bed. Left - Cast iron culvert pipe draining into brook.
Upper Right - Some sort of brick or ceramic flange feature in the ground. Lower
Right - Pipes for water or electric half buried on side of Trolley Bed.

After crossing the trolley track, the trail became more of a hiking trail and traversed a brook that had a very high banking. As I worked my way closer to the river, the brook broadened and worked its way deeper into the ground until it did in fact dump into the Merrimack River.

The trail then headed south, down the banks of the Merrimack. Walking along such a huge river makes you feel pretty small. I finally found a place where I could climb down the 20-30 foot banking and checkout the river. I’m pretty sure I came out right where the middle lock gate of the canal once stood. The stonework of the canal walls was visible since the river was so low. It was pretty impressive to think of how this was constructive with primitive equipment.

Canal tow path walls still visible with low water

Some of the rocks that creates the rapids of Moore's Falls

 More Moore's Falls

Large boulder in the middle of the river is seen easily form arial shots (see Google Earth
Pic at beginning of post) which is about halfway down the canal

More canal tow path walls

What I believe to be the middle Lock Gate feature, with a tree
growing on it. Tow path bed is shown on the right, dry and free
of water. The seacoast is experiencing an incredible drought.

Another shot of the dry canal bed to the right.

After exploring the river and old canal features, I took a trail which headed east and met back up with the trolley bed. I headed north on the trolley bed and that dropped me back off where I had crossed the first it the first time. From there, I retraced my steps and finished back at the truck covering a total of about 1.5 miles.

GPS Track

This was a really cool location that I didn’t know existed. In the short one hour break for lunch, I was able to check out hiking trails, historic trolley beds, a canal that was instrumental to the textile industry in the 1800’s and some cool artifacts I found on the trolley bed. Definitely worth the hike! 

Links on Moore's Falls Canal and the Merrimack River Canal System 
http://middlesexcanal.org/towpath/towpathtopicsJan2009.htm
http://www.americancanals.org/Data_Sheets/New%20Hampshire/Moors%20Falls.pdf
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2 comments:

  1. Karl, you certainly are able to accomplish a lot during your lunch break! And once again you have managed to educate me about something about which I knew nothing!

    The fact that those canal tow paths are still there (and visible at low water) is a testament to the quality work of those early New Englanders.

    Thanks for sharing your adventures via your blog!

    John

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    1. Hi John,

      I was actually amazed at the canal network that once existed when I did the research. I had no idea. It's really cool to see the stonework down there and think about what it must have looked like 100+ years ago. Apparently, Manchester NH was the textile capital of the US at one time, which probably drove the need for these canals.

      As always, thanks for visiting and reading.

      Karl

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