Friday, September 18, 2009

Dams

It never struck me before how many of Maine's lakes are what they are because of dams. It's partly for water control. For example, Megunticook in Camden has six dams and if it didn't, the huge rains of the spring and summer might well have washed The Smiling Cow gift shop into the harbor by now. But thanks to the dams, the Megunticook River is tame, and the tourists are safe to shop.

I should have realized this long ago, for when we had our camp on North Pond, the dam that prevented North Pond from emptying completely into Great Pond was periodically blown up (somebody needed water for his cows, it was said). And just looking at the cover of The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer should have made it obvious. The lakes are all slender and sinuous and point to the ocean, really just gloried rivers most of them. But what magnificent rivers faux!

The dams were mostly made, not for our personal wonder at fir-covered points and land-locked salmon and loons diving ahead of kayaks, but for power, power for sawmills and leather factories and pulp mills and now hydro-electricity for our camps. The prosaic becomes spectacular, rather like open hay fields on a hillside make the trees that much more beautiful. I'm still not sure, though, about what to do with the knowledge that Flagstaff Lake, so remote and undeveloped, in the tourist photos so exquisite lying in the shadow of Sugarloaf, is mostly a flooded section of the Dead River, shallow like a lake in the Midwest, in which you can still apparently see remnants of flooded villages. Even in Maine you sometimes need imagination to caress the face of facts.

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