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THE NATURAL HISTORY OF LOWELL, MASSACHUSETTS
|Prehistoric bedrock formations shape the topography
of the land area we today call Lowell, Massachusetts. Less obvious is how
these same formations shape our history and the patterns of our daily lives.
This exhibit illustrates some of the ways in which our relationship with
the natural environment is reflected in our history, our economic vitality,
and our overall quality of life. Artists have looked to the Merrimack
and Concord Rivers as sources of inspiration; entrepreneurs have drawn
water from the falls for power; and citizens have gone to the rivers and
parks for recreation and relaxation. They are all responding to a
natural environment created thousands of years ago.
In preglacial times, more than 14,000 years ago, the Merrimack River flowed south to Boston Harbor. Today the commuter rail to Boston follows the flat topography overlying the original riverbed. When the melting glacier deposited material in the channel of the preglacial Merrimack, the river changed direction. It turned north from Lowell to flow into the Atlantic at Newburyport. At the elbow of its northward turn, the river exposed the ancient bedrock and formed a waterfall. Pennacook Indians called the place "pawtucket" - a place of loud noise.
The Pennacooks gathered at the Pawtucket Falls each spring to fish for migrating salmon, shad, an alewives. Here the river's breadth narrowed, so weirs to trap fish were more easily constructed. Fish were speared and netted in the shallow water near the riverbanks.
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