The jack hammering has stopped and the construction crew is exhausted from moving tons of earth, stone and concrete. With the final scoop of the excavator bucket, the last of Ox Pasture Brook Dam is removed. The stillness is palpable – the steady hum of heavy machinery and the faint smell of diesel exhaust are gone. Tranquility has returned to MassWildlife’s 2,000-acre William Forward Wildlife Management Area in Rowley.
For almost a century, the Ox Pasture Brook Dam has been blocking ocean tides, migratory fish (rainbow smelt, blueback herring and American eels), and other wildlife that use the brook and the river corridor to spawn and feed. A wide array of partners led by DER’s Alex Hackman, who have plugged away for three years to plan, permit and implement the removal of the dam to restore this tidal river.
Behind the dam is the former impoundment –three acres of open water is slowly converting to wetland, a sinuous channel is starting to carve it’s way naturally to the Great Marsh below, and native plants are ready to take advantage of the newly exposed, rich sediments. This is ecological restoration at its best: planned intervention working with the healing hand of nature to reform and reshape natural conditions over time.
If you go to Ox Pasture Brook today, you will see the river bed emerging and new stream banks forming. This process will take several years to complete as the natural cycles of tide and storms move sediment downstream. You would have to go back to the retreat of the glaciers (approx. 10,000 years ago) to see a new river form - so pick a warm day and head out to Ox Pasture Brook to see Mother Nature do her thing.