Iron Mill Dam


This weekend’s walk took me to the Noanet Woodlands, one of the Trustees of Reservations properties that I hadn’t previously explored. The parking lot is apparently new this year, as are some trails, although the property was previously accessible.  It’s a nice walk, with well-blazed trails and frequent signs, although the trails are a bit rough in places.  I was glad I’d taken a printed copy of the map from their website though, as there are a lot of trails and a few intersections were confusing.

Although the parking lot was half full, the site is large enough that I encountered others only occasionally. It was an interesting cross-section: a couple of dog-walkers (including one group with six well-behaved dogs), a pair of joggers, one mountain-biker (bikes are allowed with a free permit) and several groups out strolling.

Much of the walk was upland hardwood forest, with a few white pines. But down along the brook, the land is sheltered by the adjacent Noanet Peak, which rises 180′ (55 m) in about twice that distance. And there I found a stand of very old white pines, several over a yard (meter) through the trunk at shoulder height. They were interspersed with other trees, so it wasn’t a true pine grove, but it was still very impressive.

And the highlight of my walk was this preserved and partially reconstructed mill dam. This is the one-time site of the Dover Union Iron Mill, built c. 1815 and a failure by 1832, victim of a water-source that simply lacked the power needed. Just upstream from the millpond the brook was entirely dry at one point, although late summer is usually dry here, and I think it’s been drier than usual this year.

This mill was constructed in a period when the power of smaller streams was being harnessed for the early industrial age, and in fact Noanet Brook feeds into the Charles River at the millpond of another iron-working mill I’ve mentioned. The investors apparently lacked the funds to buy land along the Charles, where most mills were being built, or perhaps had over-estimated the flow of the brook. The fall here is substantial, and if there had been enough water it would have been a very good mill indeed. But operating only in the spring and early summer was not enough to make it a viable enterprise.

After the mill was abandoned, the foundations were apparently left alone for more than a century until the property owner, Amelia Peabody, had an archaeologist examine the site in the fifties. A historian recently wrote a book on it, although I haven’t read it (yet). And today there are a number of placards around the site providing historical details.

I like this image because the site, while no doubt “reconstructed” to an extent, shows a good example of early industrial age construction. The low-budget nature of the effort can be seen from the use of rough stone, somewhat squared and carefully laid, but not cut in blocks as better-funded construction of the same era (e.g., Lowell’s canals) had been.

This image is an HDR made, as usual, from five exposures at 1 EV offsets. The bracket was centered at 1/100th-second, ISO 1600, and f/11, with the lens at 28mm. The sun was low, and this is the north face of the dam so it was in deep shade. I did use the circular polarizer, another reason I needed the high ISO, but it helped with the sky.  Adjustments were fairly extensive because I didn’t like any of the presets as a starting point: I dropped exposure and saturation, but boosted contrast. I also applied a software neutral density filter to the sky, and made adjustments to white and black levels. Back in C1 I applied sharpening.  Examined closely, there is some ghosting on the fence rails and other strong lines, probably the result of some camera shake on the slower exposures.


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