BlackstoneCanalPhotos Blackstone Canal Photos
The photos below are of the Blackstone Canal in South Grafton that were taken by John LaPoint
early in January, 2005 on an exploration trip with Grafton News Editor, Donald
Clark.
 

24A
(Picture of Grafton News Editor Don Clark standing at the base of the Blackstone Canal immediately south of the canal bridge on Depot Street in Farnumsville / South Grafton. The concrete steps go down to several wooden structures that once held pump facilities that were used to move water from Dawes Pond. The 
water was used in the woolen manufacturing process at the former Wuskanut Mill at the corner of Depot Street and Providence Road)
Don, is that your real trail bike!!!

23A
This picture was taken from the north side of the Depot Street canal bridge in Farnumsville / South Grafton. The canal heads northwest at this point until 
it intersects with the Providence & Worcester Railroad tracks in back of Fisher Ballfield on Ferry Street. The concrete pylons in the canal trench were once used by the Wuskanut Mill to transport fuel oil from therailroad to the mill.

 


17A
This is the stretch of the Blackstone Canal just east of Pleasant Street and historic Leland's Landing in Saundersville / South Grafton. The picture was 
taken from the Pleasant Street canal bridge.

 


14A
Blackstone Canal looking south from below and south of the canal bridge on Main Street / Route 122A, across the street from the former Fisherville Mill 
site in South Grafton. The white snake like structures across the canal are oil absorption booms that prevent bunker oil still seeping into the canal from going downstream into the Blackstone River.

 


27
Photo of the Providence & Worcester trestle bridge crossing the Blackstone River in Saundersville, South Grafton. This bridge is located off Elmwood Street 
and Canal Street, near the present day signalized railroad grade crossing on Pleasant Street. 
This bridge is on the proposed route of the BlackstoneRiver Bikeway and is adjacent to Grafton's Follette Street Park, directly on the north side of the railroad line and one of several open space sites that could be linked together to form a South Grafton Greenway.
This bridge is just west of the site of the former Saundersville passenger station, operated by the New Haven Railroad. That site is now a vacant lot off Elmwood Street. The wooden railroad station still exists, cleverly disguised as a residential house in another location on Elmwood Street. The Blackstone River and the Blackstone Canal combine at this point and run together parallel with Canal Street until they cross under Pleasant Street at Leland's Landing, an historic canal lock keeper and trading post site on the Blackstone Canal dating from the late 1820's, where one of the three canal locks in South Grafton was located. The granite bridge abutments are generally believed to date from the start of the railroad in 1847 and are one of four railroad related sites in Grafton listed on the Massachusetts State Register of Historic Places. The abutments are similar in size and style to those found at the railroad bridge crossing overhead on Route 122A in Wilkinsonville near the Aggregate Industries plant and Sutton's new Tricentennial Park. The steel railroad trestle, believed to date from the early 1900's, reportedly replaced one of several sets of wooden covered bridges found throughout the early Worcester to Providence railroad line.

 


I've had an opportunity this weekend to walk alongside the Blackstone Canal 
section in Grafton from just south of Depot Street (Farnumsville Mill) down to 
the Grafton / Northbridge town line. This may not be new information to some 
of you but here's what we found. (Additional Pictures coming later)

I walked (safely) along the P & W railroad tracks along the proposed 
Blackstone Bikeway route south from Depot Street/Maple Avenue/Ferry Street down past railroad mile marker 32. Here there is a small underground granite faced 
culvert that takes drainage underneath the railroad track and down a steep hill into 
the canal. Approximately 1/4 mile further south a gas transmission line 
crosses under the tracks and the canal. This transmission line is also 
approximately at the Northbridge/Grafton town line on Route 122/Providence Road.

I went down to the west side of the canal and backtracked up alongside the 
canal as close to it as possible. Lots of small undergrowth but fairly walkable. 
The canal trench looks to be completely intact, rather straight in form. 
There are a few toppled trees here and there in the water but really nothing that 
would appear to restrict a kayak from going down the canal. The entire section 
was watered and today the current was moving quite well. 

The canal is tucked down at the base of a steep slope underneath the east 
side of the Providence and Worcester Railroad tracks. The Blackstone River is 
just to the east with a high berm in between the river and the canal. All three 
(tracks, canal, river) run straight and parallel to each other for a distance 
here. With the forest canopy the canal is barely visible from the railroad 
tracks this time of year. Down closer alongside the canal, some areas have 
sunlight, most are in shade.

I saw what appear to be two breaches in the east side of the canal, but it 
may just be that this is where this section of the canal starts and stops, 
leaving and then reentering the Blackstone River. These openings/connections did 
not in any way appear to stop the flow of water in the canal. There was also one 
section near the Northbridge line where some sort of a stone boulder dam was 
built partially across the canal, but this also has been breached and appeared 
navigable without a portage.

Heading north back north towards Depot Street the canal jogs slightly to the 
right and there is a triangle of land between the tracks and the canal. Here 
there is a relatively good sized wetland area. This is just north of an area 
which I may be incorrectly referring to as a canal breech, because in fact the 
river itself jogs left and the canal continues straight.

All of the canal in this section south of Depot Street actually shows up 
relatively well on the limited scale aerial photography available on-line from the 
state: 
 

http://commpres.env.state.ma.us/community/cmty_main.asp?regionID=blac&regionNa
me=&communityID=110&communityName=Grafton
 

I later met and talked with Mr. & Mrs. Scott Saltus who live alongside the 
Canal on Depot Street in what was the former Dawes property, also once the house 
for the Superintendent of the Farnumsville Mill.  They told me that the 
wetlands area was once a farm pond known locally as Dawes Pond. Mrs. Saltus asked 
me about the location of the canal locks and I told her that one of the three 
locks in Grafton was located south of Depot Street. She thinks she knows the 
exact location, as there is apparently still some granite pieces remaining in 
there.

I also asked them about the trees and debris collecting in the canal next to 
their property and they confirmed that they had previously expressed concern 
about this and would like to find out if they can remove it legally and/or get 
some help removing it. There is a small concrete dam structure here that is 
breached and which they say has been there as long as they have. (23 years) 
Interestingly this was the only area of this section of the Canal, (and the only 
section visible from the Depot Street canal bridge) that is constricted with 
any debris. With the exception of a few small logs the canal is then pretty much 
open, flowing water all of the way south to the Northbridge line.

The attached picture was taken in January, 2005. It shows the canal directly 
at the Depot Street Bridge, looking north. Those buildings are what's left of 
the fire suppression system for the Farnumsville Mill.

One question - is what side would the towpath have been on, east or west of 
the canal in this location? The (berm) between the river and the canal (east 
side) looks like it possibly could have been a tow path, but I could not get 
access over there to see that. Is this berm made out of the spoil material that 
resulted from digging the canal trench? 

If the towpath was on the west side of the canal than the railroad may in 
fact have used some of the towpath in this location as its right of way. Although 
it almost looks as if the railroad decided to go up higher on the slope and 
get out of the river valley bottom. We also have the same question about the 
whereabouts of the towpath on the stretch of the unwatered canal ditch in Sutton 
near Tricentennial Park and Blackstone Street. If it's between the river and 
the canal ditch on the berm then the towpath is pretty much intact.

Really just amazing that this particular section of the Blackstone Canal is 
right there, largely unseen by most people but looking virtually undisturbed, 
intact and seemingly quite navigable for canoes and kayaks a full 150+ years 
after the canal closed. This section of the canal was likely built in 1827-1828, 
the railroad then came pretty much along its current configuration in 1847 
and the canal closed in 1849.

John LaPoint