Paddling to Neck Bridge

I'd seen the above sign when driving home from a recent paddle on the Nashua River's North and South branches in Lancaster, MA.  The sign looks almost as forgotten as the bridge and ancient route it commemorates and stands sentinel at a bend in Neck Road overlooking a wide and desolate-looking floodplain.  Seeing mention of a bridge and its having once been a "main thoroughfare" more than piqued my curiosity and some searching on the internet provided the following information:  According to Joseph Willard in his 1826 Topographical and Historical Sketches of the Town of Lancaster Massachusetts the road to Concord was laid out in 1656 and crossed at the wading place of the Penecook (today's Nashua River) to the east of what was afterwards called the Neck Bridge.  It continued to be a fording place until the Neck Bridge was built in 1718.  Another historian, Rev. Abijah P. Marvin in The History of Lancaster Massachusetts: from the first settlement to the present time, 1643-1879 describes the bridge as not having fared well during times of high water and subsequently required being rebuilt...each time a little further upriver  This map from Marvin's book shows three different locations of the Neck Bridge over the approximately one hundred years it existed...

The Old Road to Concord is shown diverging at the bend in present-day Neck Road and crossing the Nashua River before intersecting with the Ancient River Road to Groton. This first location for Neck Bridge was said to be near the site of a ford and fish weir used by the Nashaway (Native American) people.

So, with the (above) map in hand I launched into the Nashua River from the canoe launch at Seven Bridge Road and paddled upriver curious to see if anything remains of the old road and bridge.  The weather was cloudy with some drizzle and fog...and thanks to all of our recent rainfall, plenty of water was flowing in the river.

I reached the point where the river divides into several different routes around an island.  One route leads to the appropriately named Dead River...
...which soon dead-ends.

After finding the least obstructed route leading upriver from the convergence with the Dead, I soon found myself in the area where I believed the original bridge may have been located.  A stately sycamore stands along the shore...

Feeling close to the desired spot I briefly went ashore on the river's west bank in search of the Neck Bridge sign (at the bend on Neck Road) and found it with the help of my binoculars...

Once back on the river I crossed to the eastern side and looked for any signs of what was once a "main thoroughfare".  What I found were several wood posts like this one...
...and an old wood crate with what I believe to be wrought-iron hardware...

In this vicinity is a slough running parallel to the river, and might be the Ancient River Road to Groton shown on the map...
   
This tractor trail also parallels the river's eastern shore and heads in a southerly direction...


The only one around with whom to discuss these findings was this bufflehead duck...

After checking out the area, I returned to my boat and headed upriver passing all three possible bridge locations to the "Meeting of the Waters" where the fog was found to be getting thicker...
...and gradually enveloped me as I headed back to Seven Bridges Road...

Large sycamore trees were also noted at Seven Bridge Road, Center Bridge, and the Sprague Bridge leaving me to wonder if such trees were planted at bridge locations in Lancaster.  This one stood not far from Center Bridge...


For some reason this stretch of the Nashua seems well-suited for trapping significant amounts of plastic flotsam behind snags etc..  I gathered up these, but hardly made a dent...

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