The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, July 2, 1999


Fruitlands' vista in an earlier time

Spending the evening listening to the Concord Band and picnicking with friends is a pleasant enough way to pass a summer evening, but for this Carlisle forest dweller, to be at Fruitlands with "That View" is particularly special. As we sit looking across a valley that runs northeast to southwest before us, we are looking west with Worcester beyond the hills opposite us. Devens is just to the north in the valley bottom .

A year ago, I happened to take a course in Glacial Geology at UMass Lowell. My professor for this course, Dr. O'Brian, is a geologist who has lived in our area for many years. With him, my classmates and I visited Prospect Hill in Harvard, where Fruitlands is located, to learn more about this area's really early history.

So now, when I sit on Fruitland's lawn, I can close my eyes and visualize a very different scene. If we had been on this spot around 14,000 years ago, listening to an earlier incarnation of musical Concordians playing their primitive instruments, we would have had to paddle our way there. Prospect Hill was an island, a mile and a half from the eastern shore of a large, and very chilly, Glacial Lake Nashua.

Most of us here in New England know that this area was once covered by an ice sheet over a mile thick, which terminated to our south forming the cape and islands. We also know that it "retreated." It is estimated that this retreat took from 500 to 1000 years in our area, a very short time in geologic terms, so it produced massive quantities of running water. Some of this water pooled in the low-lying areas in front of the retreating ice front. Glacial Lake Nashua was such a body of water. It filled the Nashua River basin, although never all at once, and eventually, when the ice moved out of the way, it found its way into the Merrimack River. Its lake deposits extend as much as forty miles long and ten miles wide.

So, when you relax on the lawn at Fruitlands, close your eyes and imagine. You are on an island still devoid of trees, in a lake milky with suspended particles. Somehow you would need to get a fire going, not only to cook your "picnic" with, but to help you stay warm. For, even though it is a July evening, there is nothing between where you are sitting and the North Pole but a cold lake and an enormous sheet of ice, conducting a north wind chilled by the greatest natural air conditioner knowna refreshing thought during a July heat wave.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito