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Spring Rains Hamper Walden's Summer Beach Days03:06
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Betsy Rivera, second from right, and Halil Yumus, right, both of Boston, hold hands as they enter the water at Walden Pond, in Concord, in May. In many areas, high waters mean the pond reaches the retaining walls that used to border beaches. (AP)
Betsy Rivera, second from right, and Halil Yumus, right, both of Boston, hold hands as they enter the water at Walden Pond, in Concord, in May. In many areas, high waters mean the pond reaches the retaining walls that used to border beaches. (AP)

CONCORD, Mass. — Walden Pond State Reservation is a kettle pond, with no surface water flowing in or out. It’s been that way for as long as anyone can remember. Even Henry David Thoreau wrote about it in his 1854 book, “Walden; or, Life in the Woods.”

As for the inlet or outlet of Walden, I have not discovered any but rain and snow and evaporation.

But never has John Faro, the park supervisor at Walden Pond, seen the beach disappear.

"This is the first we can remember," Faro says. "We’ve had limited beaches in the past but this was the entire beach was gone."

Much of Walden Pond's beach is still covered with water following flooding from spring rains. (Monica Brady-Myerov/WBUR)
Much of Walden Pond's beach is still covered with water following flooding from spring rains. (Monica Brady-Myerov/WBUR)

To most of us, the heavy rains of the spring are a distant memory during these hot, dry summer days. But the effects of over 15 inches of rain in March are still being felt at one of Massachusetts’ most popular summer destination spots.

Since June, the Department of Conservation and Recreation has been forced to limit Walden Pond's visitors.

Only two-thirds of the parking lot is open, and it fills up so quickly that park officials have to close and reopen the lot throughout the day. Then, they update a phone message to let people know whether or not there is parking.

During a normal summer day, the beach can fit about 1,000 people at a time. But these days, Faro says they have to turn people away when they reach about 700 visitors.

Faro says most people understand the situation. "Certainly there’s been some frustration," he says. "People drive a long way. But we have made a lot of concessions to people, trying to be as friendly and accepting as we can."

It’s been a dry summer, so Jennifer Orsini, who visits the pond from West Roxbury, says she didn't believe the friend who told her water had reclaimed much of the beach.

"We came today, we walked in, saw the beach, and we said, 'Oh no, this is it,' " Orsini says, sweeping her arm around to show about 15 feet of sand. "So we managed to find a little spot but we were lucky to get the spot that we did."

"We walked in, saw the beach, and we said, 'Oh no, this is it.'"

Jennifer Orsini

Orsini got engaged at Walden seven years ago.  Her husband proposed to her in the woods near Thoreau’s original cabin site, which you can still walk to on a higher path, although the pond path is closed.

Since May, the pond has gone down enough to give back about 15 feet of sandy beach. But in many parts, the water reaches the retaining wall where Maggie Ferreira, from Somerville, is perched.

"I think the children like to build the sand castles and walk on the sand," Ferreira says. "It’s difficult for the children."

Park officials can’t predict when the water will go down more — it depends on the weather.

Despite the shrunken beach and the closures, the people who come to this pond are often seeking more than a day at the water’s edge. Kelly Lemos, from Arlington, sits with her children on a grassy area.

"It’s nice. It’s shady. It’s cool in the hot weather," Lemos says. She brought some reading with her to the beach — "Civil Disobedience And Other Essays," by Henry David Thoreau.

"It's five of his essays, they're very dry," Lemos says.

Flooding or not, that’s what makes Walden Pond so special. Visitors find themselves in the place where Thoreau lived a two-year experiment in simple living — not just for the cool water, but for a little bit of transcendentalism to rub off on him.

This program aired on August 2, 2010.

Monica Brady-Myerov Twitter Reporter
Monica Brady-Myerov was formerly a report in WBUR's newsroom.

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