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The Flow of Time in the Connecticut Valley Geological Imprints

The Flow of Time in the Connecticut Valley
Geological Imprints
Title: The Flow of Time in the Connecticut Valley Geological Imprints
Release Date: 2018-08-29
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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The Flow of Time in the Connecticut Valley

Pl. 1. The Connecticut Valley as it is seen from Mount Sugarloaf.

The western highland shows through the pine boughs at the extreme right. The eastern highland balances iton the far left. The Holyoke Range hems the basin on the south except at the gap where the river escapesto the Springfield area.

The Flow of Time

Geological Imprints


The Hampshire Bookshop




Introduction ix
Today and Yesterday 1
The River Works 1
The Landscape Changes 4
Glaciers Came 8
Just Before the Ice Age 9
Rivers Carried off the Everlasting Hills 11
Before the Rivers Cut the Valleys 14
The Mosaic of Central Massachusetts 18
The Red Rock Basin 18
A Dinosaur Diary 21
Volcanoes 23
The Original Valley 28
Hot Springs in Central Massachusetts 30
The Marginal Uplands 30
The Eastern Upland 32
Coal Swamps in Massachusetts and Rhode Island 33
The Western Upland 34
The Story of Central Massachusetts 38
Interesting Places 51
Mount Lincoln in Pelham 51
Mount Toby 52
The Sunderland Caves 55
Mount Sugarloaf 56
Turners Falls 58
The French King Bridge 59
Titan’s Piazza and Titan’s Pier 60
Westfield Marble Quarry 61
The Old Lead Mines 63
The Dinosaur Tracks near Holyoke 66
Fossil Fishing 68
Calendar Beds 69
The Holyoke Range 70
Trips from Northampton 78
Northampton, Amherst, Pelham 78
Belchertown, Amherst and Northampton 82
South Hadley, Amherst, Northampton 83
Holyoke, Easthampton, Northampton 85
Northampton, Hadley, Sunderland, Hatfield 86
Northampton, Cummington, Plainfield and South Deerfield 88
Trips from Greenfield 91
Mohawk Trail, Adams, Plainfield and South Deerfield 91
Greenfield, Orange, Pelham, Amherst and Deerfield 96
Greenfield, Turners Falls, Montague, North Amherst 99
Greenfield, Turners Falls, Montague, Sunderland 100
Trips from Springfield 102
Springfield, Holyoke, Easthampton and Westfield 102
Westfield to the Westfield Marble Quarry 104
Optional Trips 105
Mineral and Rock Collections 106
The Minerals 107
The Vein Minerals 107
Minerals of Pegmatites and Igneous Rocks 109
Minerals of Metamorphic Rocks 111
The Minerals of Soils and Rock Decay 111
The Minerals of Sedimentary Rocks 111
The Rocks 112
The Sedimentary Rocks 113
The Igneous Rocks 114
The Dark Rocks 115
The Medium-Colored Rocks 116
The Light-Colored Rocks 116
The Metamorphic Rocks 117
Conclusion 120
Indexes 121


1. The Connecticut Valley as it is seen from Mt. Sugarloaf Front.
2a. Air view of the ox-bow lake between Northampton and Mt. Tom 4
2b. Roches moutonnées of the Pelham Hills seen from Hadley 4
3a. Mt. Sugarloaf, a remnant of Triassic rocks disappearing grain by grain down the Connecticut River 12
3b. Mt. Monadnock, a hill surmounting the New England peneplain, seen from Mt. Lincoln 12
4a. A dinosaur walked from the raindrop marked surface at the right to a shallow pond at the left 22
4b. Volcanoes ejected much ash and many bombs to form the Granby tuff 22
5a. Columnar lava rests upon red sandstone in the cliffs at Greenfield 32
5b. Fissures were filled with liquid rock that became solid and bonded wall to wall at the Windsor Dam 32
6. View of the Holyoke Range from Mt. Lincoln 52
7a. View of the Deerfield River gorge emerging on valley lowland as seen from Mt. Sugarloaf 58
7b. View of the French King gorge as seen from the bridge 58
8a. View of Titan’s Piazza at Hockanum showing the columns resting upon the gently inclined sandstone 60
8b. View of the Springfield lowland from the Westfield Marble quarry 60
9a. The dinosaur track preserve at Smith’s Ferry near Holyoke 66
9b. Varved clays or calendar beds on river bank south of Hadley 66
10. View of the Deerfield gorge from the east summit of the Mohawk Trail 92


1. The Connecticut River undercuts the Hadley bank 2
2. Natural levees south of the Sunderland Bridge 2
3. Block diagram showing main features of central Massachusetts at the present time 5
4. Block diagram showing main features of central Massachusetts during recession of the Ice Sheet 5
5. Block diagram showing main features of central Massachusetts during excavation of the lowland 13
6. Block diagram showing main features of central Massachusetts after Triassic basins were filled 13
7. Map of Mount Toby showing gorges filled with conglomerate 20
8. Map showing agglomerate burying a fault scarp on Notch power line 24
9. Block diagram showing main features of central Massachusetts during volcanic stage 27
10. Block diagram showing the Triassic basins of central Massachusetts 27
11. Map of old volcanic region near Mount Hitchcock and west of the Notch 29
12. Block diagram showing topography during formation of the lead veins 31
13. Block diagram of region during Middle Ordovician time 39
14. Block diagram of region at end of Ordovician time 39
15. Block diagram of region during Devonian period 39
16. Block diagram of region during Carboniferous period 41
17. Block diagram of region in early Triassic time 41
18. Block diagram of region in late Triassic time 41
19. Block diagram of region at opening of Cenozoic era 45
20. Block diagram of region at the present time 45
21. Map showing location of interesting places 53
22. Meander scarps at edge of flood plain, Sunderland 57
23. Map of the Leverett lead veins 65
24. Diagrams showing development of Notch and Notch Mountain 74


In every region there is an evening drive which lures the citydweller from the cramped vistas of the office, the home, and thedingy streets to the limitless expanse of hills and valleys, wheremental tension relaxes and vision broadens as the physical horizonexpands and acquires depth. In less favored localities, the drive maybe long and the relaxation short, but not so in the Connecticut Valley.Half an hour of travel, either to the east or to the west from anylarge community, provides an escape to the hills, where people, cars,houses, and all the minutiae of urban civilization are blurred on thecanvas of upland and lowland.

Local pride and personal prejudice may proclaim one view superiorto another; but the praise so liberally bestowed upon the heightsbeyond Westfield, the Mount Tom Reservation, the land calledGoshen, Shelburne Summit, and many another site, merely bespeaksthe rivalry of equally favored vantage points. Perhaps the trail toPelham would not be singled out for special mention by the undiscriminatingenthusiast, but the connoisseur of New England’s scenicbeauty returns and follows it again and again. A good road may takesome credit for its popularity, but there is a deeper cause than thiswhich brings him back; for, if there is drama in scenery, he finds ithere. The road leads out of Northampton, and from the graceful archof the Coolidge Memorial Bridge he views the flood-scarred lowlandsthat border the river, and across the flat plain into Hadley he seesvisible reminders that river and farmer periodically struggle overownership of the land. Then a rise in the road constricts the viewbut offers a promise of something different. Ahead, rolling fieldsstretch to the beckoning hills beyond Amherst, but the hills appearand disappear in tantalizing cadence as the car tops each rise anddrops into the ensuing hollow. Soon West Pelham comes into view,and the rise to the highland begins. Beside the road a brook tumblesxinto the valley; and as the car climbs the heights to Pelham, andmiles of wooded land are suddenly spread before the eye, the wayfarerrealizes that here is the dramatic climax to his trip and to themurmured story of the brook. But the long ridges reaching out tothe north and to the south, the deep valleys between them, and thesky which meets the farthest ridge do not enclose the panorama. Ithas a fourth dimension—time—a dimension as limitless as thehorizon.

With just a dash of imagination, the wayfarer may journey backwardthrough time; through scenes of infinite variety; throughcountless years of unceasing change; through situations so differentthat he would scarcely have recognized his New England. Thescarred plain of the river, the brook, the soil, the rocks, the uplandand the valley,—all tell a fascinating and a logical, if surprising,geological tale. A detour down this fourth dimension promises asmuch interest as a journey through the other three.


Today and Yesterday

From the Coolidge Memorial Bridge the broad lowland seemsto reach out in all directions towards the encircling hills. Fardown the river, the distant bank rises a sheer thirty feet fromthe water and is high enough to surmount even the worst of floods.Yet each year this bank recedes as the unconsolidated sediment at itsbase is sapped by the stream and is carried away. Three times theriver road has been moved back from the insatiable Connecticut, andtoday the main Hockanum highway takes the long route far fromthe water’s edge.

The River Works

Nearer the bridge the land is lower, and it shows the effects offrequent inundation, but not of scour. A great sand bar lies in thecurve of the stream, and the low parallel ridges suggest that they,too, were awash in the Connecticut before its eastern bank encroachedso far upon the town of Hadley. The tongue of land whichserves as Northampton’s airport is a succession of bars and abandonedchannels which record the migration of the river away fromits old bank along Bridge Street. The Connecticut is robbing Hadleyto pay Northampton, but there was a time when Northampton waspilfered, too.

Swales line the landscape as far as Hadley; and each year, at thetime of high water, they must now be content with the meageroverflow, where once they sped the entire stream upon its southwardcourse. But even now, in flood, their original function may be restored.For the swale just west of Hadley was a roaring torrent in1938, 1936, and 1896. Indeed, it threatened to appropriate the entirestream, and each of the great curving hollows that furrow the lowlandare scour-channels which were made at other times.


Fig. 1. The Connecticut River undercuts the Hadley bankat Hockanum.

Fig. 2. Natural levees border the Connecticut River south of theSunderland Bridge.


The river has moved at will from one side of its alluvial plain tothe other, and its threats to change its course are not to be takenlightly. Until 1830 it flowed past Northampton, around the greatox-bow to Easthampton and then back to the watergap betweenMount Tom and Mount Holyoke. It served as the main line ofcommunication to the Atlantic seaboard and was a much travelledroute. In the spring of that year high water breached the narrowneck of land between the two ends of the meander loop, and practicallyovernight the route to New London was shortened by threemiles. Although the event was not a source of rejoicing to the landowners,Northampton declared a day of thanksgiving because theywere now, thanks be to Providence, three miles nearer the sea. Howoften the river has changed its course may never be determined, butthe floodplain is grooved with swampy or silt-filled ox-bow lakes,not only near Northampton, but all the way from Brattleboro, Vermont,to Middletown, Connecticut. They tell of older shifts in thecourse of a river which still displays its brute power within thelimits of its alluvial plain.

The inundation of 1936 did more than scour the river’s floodplain;it left thick deposits of sand and silt upon many of the fields. Eachpreceding flood has done the same sort of thing, dropping

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