Jan 252016

Fannie H. Eckstorm’s 1941 publication Indian Place-Names of the Maine Coast (page 210) in discussion of Adowaukeag mentions the tide-falls “where every now and then, on the ebb of the tide, the great “Cellar Hole” gapes below the white sheet of the falls.

I wondered if that feature could still be discernible and worth documenting with a photo.


What exactly is meant by “where every now and then“? Does this mean only at spring tides or even during super low spring tides? Or is rarity of occasion implied at all; rather instead, albeit briefly, during any tide “on the ebb of the tide“? I’ve no idea if in fact the notable depression visible in the two photos above immediately west of the exposed ledge in the midst of the falls is to which Mrs. Eckstorm is referring as the great “Cellar Hole”. At first glance, it seems possible; however, this location fails to satisfy her last bit “gapes below the white sheet of the falls“.

The two photos above are views looking southwesterly from the low water mark on the eastern shore of the river at Falls Point on Saturday January 23, 2016. The uppermost photograph was taken at 4:19 PM, a few minutes before sunset and low water; the second photo, at 4:12 PM. The structure immediately behind the great “Cellar Hole” on the western bank of the river is the headquarters of Frenchman Bay Conservancy (FBC).

The photo below was taken on Friday January 22, 2016 from the upstairs deck of FBC at 4:21 PM looking northeasterly towards Falls Point. Note that the cell tower has been cloned out of view using Photoshop for aesthetic reasons alone.

Adowaukeag - without cell tower

Long time resident, town official and harbor master Helen Gordon, when asked about the so-called great cellar hole recalled that there were some specific spots in the river near the falls where her husband had set his traps, but never had he identified any areas as the great cellar hole. She (and other respondents to queries) recalled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had done work some forty years ago for the removal of ledge near the falls, and wondered if the dynamite may have altered what Mrs. Eckstorm wrote concerning the so-called great cellar hole.

SULmapChecking with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Navigation Projects for Maine, we can see the specific areas that were targeted for the dynamite (click SULmap for the full-sized PDF of this map dated 1976), and that they were actually addressing high spots (not holes) northwesterly of the main falls. While the Corps’ activity can’t be ignored, it seems unlikely it was near Echstorm’s last bit “gapes below the white sheet of the falls“.

The 2012 hydrographic survey conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of the river bottom in and around the falls produces perhaps the best candidate to be considered as the object of Eckstorm’s remark. Using their point data adjusted to NAVD and then combining it with the LiDAR data (thanks to the courtesy of the Maine Office of GIS and the USGS), we can see the two depressions below the falls.

 Posted by on January 25, 2016 at 5:43 pm