The Musketaquid, Thoreau’s boat. The color version of the book’s frontispiece.
Dunhee Ambrotype. We’re so lucky to have this image. Though deathly ill with consumption, Thoreau made a final trip to New Bedford MA to visit his friend Daniel Rickertson. When there, E.S. Dunshee took the last photographs of Thoreau in his studio on August 21, 1861. The only other photographs were daguerrotypes taken by Maxham in Worcester MA in 1856.
Billerica Dam. Winter, 2016. Though only eight feet high, the dam backs up the river for more than four miles.
Boat Place. This is a modern sunset photograph of the lowermost Sudbury River taken August 2016. The opposite bank is land formerly owned by Thoreau’s most frequent boating companion, William Ellery Channing. It was here, in the willows, that Thoreau harbored his boat for his river adventures during the time the family lived in the Yellow House at 255 Main Street. Note the smooth, glassy surface. This reach of the Sudbury is effectively a ribbon-shaped lake, held up by sediment bars near the mouth of the Assabet River, just downstream.
T-junction. To say that the Sudbury River joins the Assabet River to become the Concord River is conventionally correct. Geologically, what really happens is that the powerful, sediment-laden Assabet joins the sluggish, flat alluvial valley of Musketaquid as if it were the base of a T. The result is the damming up of the Sudbury River into what is effectively a linear lake, and a sand-filled section of Concord River above a linear lake dammed up by the Billerica Dam. This was Thoreau’s river country. Egg Rock (ER) was the axis mundi of his life, not Walden Pond.
Western Window. The only regularly dated and uniform stretch of Thoreau’s journal (his true life’s work) was written in the third floor garret of the Thoreau family home at 255 Main Street. Virtually every morning for ten years, he worked with a western view to the Sudbury River. The house-river distance here was comparable to the distance between Thoreau’s house at Walden Pond and the main part of the lake.
Dunshee Ambrotype (photo) of Henry David Thoreau, 1862. Courtesy of the Concord Museum.