Glaical Potholes

Geologic Formations

glacialpotholes

So recently, I visited the small mountain community of Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts to see the Bridge of Flowers and contribute to its quaint-based economy. It was once a mill “town,” which had an unused trolley bridge which the locals hated and didn’t know what to do with, until somebody had the idea to cover that bridge with a crapload of flowers[i]. And guess what? People love it! These days, people come from all over to walk across a bridge covered with flowers, along with the scenic vistas. The village, divided into two towns: Shelburne and Buckland, has a few streets with charming shops and restaurants, the aforementioned Bridge of Flowers and the reason for this blog post: giant potholes in the Deerfield River.

Anyway, back to the potholes. What are they, and why are they there? Basically, they are giant holes in the bedrock gouged out by running water, and in this case huge floods caused by melting glaciers.[ii] Usually, something interferes with the flowing water, causing a blockage. Water then moves quickly in a circular current, causing an eddy. Sediment carried by the water slowly wears away the bedrock below the eddy, leaving behind a pothole.[iii] Huge amounts of water are required for this, and the best source of this water is melting glaciers.[iv]

These particular potholes are estimated to be about 14,000 years old,[v] and were formed when water flowed down the Deerfield River into what was once Glacial Lake Hitchcock[vi] – more into that later. Anyway, at the time the sediments carried by the river settled into a delta as it flowed into the ancient lake. Anyway, at some point a dam formed upstream and broke, causing a huge torrent of water to come crashing down the Deerfield River, and another blockage upstream caused the water to flow in eddies, creating the potholes we see and love today.[vii]

Now back to Glacial Lake Hitchcock. I will provide a brief synopsis. At some point, I plan on making a blog post dedicated to it. Anyway, it was a long narrow lake, along what is now the Connecticut River Valley. It stretched from northern Vermont to New Britain Connecticut. The lake was formed by streams flowing from melting glaciers into the Connecticut Valley.[viii] At its southern edge was a dam which eventually broke, leaving behind the river valley.[ix]

You used be able to swim in the potholes, but for some stupid reason – I’m guessing they were afraid of lawsuits because someone was too stupid to not bang their head against a rock and bleed all over the place – the local officials in all their infinite wisdom decided to block off any entrance to it and arrest anyone who dares go in.[x] Fuckheads. Like some shitty president once said “Tear down This Wall!” Because I wanna swim in some giant potholes, dammit!

Shelburne Falls isn’t the only place you can find glacial potholes, but they are some of the best examples. They are scattered throughout the world, anywhere where there melting glaciers.[xi] Another one can be found behind Purgatory Chasm in Sutton, Massachusetts,[xii] but this one is filled with mud and spray painted by local vandals.

[i] Parmett, Elaine “The Bridge of Flowers” Bridge of Flowers Committee http://www.bridgeofflowersmass.org/#!history/cldy 28Aug2016

[ii] The Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association “ Welcome to shelburnefalls.com” http://www.shelburnefalls.com/vistor-information/3-see-the-glacial-potholes-in-the-center-of-shelburne-falls 2016

[iii] Rose, Bill “Potholes” Keweenaw Heritage http://www.geo.mtu.edu/KeweenawGeoheritage/The_Fault/Potholes.html 30AUG2016

[iv] Rose, Bill “Potholes” Keweenaw Heritage http://www.geo.mtu.edu/KeweenawGeoheritage/The_Fault/Potholes.html 30AUG2016

[v] The Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association “ Welcome to shelburnefalls.com” http://www.shelburnefalls.com/vistor-information/3-see-the-glacial-potholes-in-the-center-of-shelburne-falls 2016

[vi] The Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association “ Welcome to shelburnefalls.com” http://www.shelburnefalls.com/vistor-information/3-see-the-glacial-potholes-in-the-center-of-shelburne-falls 2016

[vii] The Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association “ Welcome to shelburnefalls.com” http://www.shelburnefalls.com/vistor-information/3-see-the-glacial-potholes-in-the-center-of-shelburne-falls 2016

[viii] Skehan, James “Roadside Geology of Massachusetts” Pg. 228-9. Mountain Press, 2001. Missoula, Montana.

[ix] Skehan, James “Roadside Geology of Massachusetts” Pg. 228-9. Mountain Press, 2001. Missoula, Montana.

[x] Author Unknown “Shelburne Falls Massachusetts Glacial Potholes Over Fifty Whirling Pools Left By the Glacial Age” Atlas Obscura http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/glacial-potholes 30AUG2016

[xi] Author Unknown “Giant’s Kettle” Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant%27s_kettle 30AUG2016

[xii] Pelto, Mauri “Purgatory Chasm State reservation” How Did it Form?” Nichols College http://www.nichols.edu/departments/purgatorychasm/index.htm 30AUG2016

Photo Credit: Me

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