The Connecticut River
An avid fisherman and nature lover, Wetherell has written many essays about his adventures and explorations on the Connecticut River. This river has played a prominent role in the history of New England, being the largest river in this area (410 miles long). The river flows along the borders of New Hampshire and Vermont, continues through western Massachusetts and central Connecticut, and ends at the Long Island Sound. A heavy amount of silt often builds up in the river during the winter, creating several sandbars along the river floor and into its tributaries. These sandbars have historically made navigation challenging, resulting in a lack of major cities along its shores. Springfield, Massachusetts, is the largest city on the river’s shoreline today.
Due to the rising and dropping elevations of its floor, the Connecticut River has been a good site for manufacturing. This has brought business to the area but has also caused major pollution of the river’s waters. Large numbers of cut trees from farther north were often floated downriver in the late 1800s. Though this aided transportation for sawmills, it caused dangerous conditions for small boaters and fishermen. By the early 1900s this practice had been banned.
By the 1960s, as a result of massive runoffs of waste materials and other pollutants from agriculture, industry, and housing, the Connecticut River was given a failing grade by the Environmental Protection Agency when the river’s waters were tested. Great effort was put into cleaning up the river, and between the 1960s and the 1990s the quality of the water rose from Class D (unacceptable amounts of pollution) to Class B (acceptable for swimming, fishing, and other recreational pastimes but not clean enough for drinking water). In 1997, President Bill Clinton signed the American Heritage Rivers initiative. Shortly thereafter the Connecticut River was named one of fourteen American Heritage Rivers. This means that special efforts are being made to preserve the legacy, beauty, and health of this historic river. Today there are several agencies and programs that monitor the Connecticut River and provide daily or weekly reports on the health of the river. One of these agencies is the Connecticut River Watch Program. Each state along the river’s shores also has a state branch of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that monitors the river’s health, making public announcements about the safety of beaches for swimming and the health of the fish living in the waters.
Many fish that sports fishermen love to catch live in the Connecticut River. These include shad, bass, trout, carp, catfish, and sea lamprey. For the past several years the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has attempted to lure Atlantic salmon back to the river. Dams built along the river had for generations made the salmon extinct in the Connecticut River; salmon, a migratory fish, could not get back to their spawning grounds upriver because the dams blocked their way. The Fish and Wildlife Service has overseen the construction of ladders along the sides of the dams to permit the salmon free passage.
Sara Constantakis, Thomas E. Barden – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 28 (2010) – W. D. Wetherell – Published by Gale Cengage Learning.