|PO Box 865
South Hadley, MA 01075
Just below the entrance to the Oxbow, nestled between Hadley and Holyoke, there is an
old Indian Dam that crosses the river. It is underwater now, although not by much in
some places. Before the dams were built in Holyoke the river was lower and the Indian
Dam would have been visible.
Much of what I know about this dam is from hearsay. What makes me think there is
some truth to these reports is that I have heard it from numerous sources and all the
stories were similar. Perhaps we should agree to call it a legend.
According to the legend, There was a rocky and uneven ledge that spanned the river in
this location. Allegedly the local Native Americans placed rocks in the deeper sections
and gradually built them up until a crude dam of rather uniform height stretched across
the river. The dam created a pool of water on one side instead of what would have
been white water. This provided a good place to fish.
In 1850 when the first dam was built in Holyoke, the water level rose and covered this
dam by a couple feet. When the current granite dam was built in 1900, the river level
again was raised a couple feet. To most boaters the Indian Dam is out of sight and, for
the most part, out of mind. But be careful, a couple feet and a couple feet are barely
more than the draft of many boats used on the Connecticut River.
There is one spot with a scant 3.7 feet of clearance. In severe draw downs of the river
level in summer that figure can become less. On a nice summer day look over the side
of your boat as you go by, you will be able to see it. Other locations are about 4 feet. It
is safest to stay to the Holyoke side of the river where depths can be up to seven feet.
The origins of this underwater land form may be in question but I am partial to the above
This section of my Hatfield
to Holyoke map shows the
location of the Indian Dam.
On a calm day you can
observe the ripples on the
surface of the water as it
passes over the shallow
This is a hydrographic study
of the Indiam Dam that I did
in the summer of 2012.
Depths over 10 feet are left
blank. The shallow areas
are indicated with an orange
contour line. The 3.7 depth
reading is highlighted in red.
A light blue line shows the
best channel to pass over
the Indian Dam.
A depth plot going over the
Indian Dam at the 3.7 foot
location. The left side is to
the north and the right side is
to the south. Between the
Indiam Dam and the Oxbow
entrance is one of the
deepest holes on this part of
CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE