The Mohawk Trail: Shelburne Falls, Mass.


The small town of Shelburne Falls provides at least two reasons to take a break from a road trip on the Mohawk Trail.  In addition to its historic downtown business district, you should also check out the Glacial Potholes, and the Bridge of Flowers.

On your way through town on Bridge Street, watch for a turn to the left on Deerfield Avenue, just before you reach the bridge.  You’ll go down a little hill, then grab one of the few parking spots at the side of the road.  Here, just below Salmon Falls on the Deerfield River, are dozens of “potholes” — some tiny, others big enough to swim in (though you’re not supposed to go for a dip).  The potholes were carved by glaciers, countless years ago.

Potholes were formed by the swirling water supplied by melting glaciers.  The water would spin stones in the holes, grinding away rock.  The largest pothole here measures 39 feet across — making it the largest pothole in the world.

Salmon Falls is the site of a treaty between the Mohawk and Penobscot Native Americans, between 1708 and 1758.  The treaty preserved peace, and allowed members of both tribes who lived within a day’s walk of here, to hunt and fish here.

Just upstream from Salmon Falls, the water is nice and calm, providing a perfect reflection of the Bridge of Flowers.  This old bridge carried a trolley from 1908 to 1928, and a year later, it was converted into a linear garden…

… that’s packed with flowers of all kinds, along with trees and other plants.

I was amazed to find so many flowers blooming here, in early October.  I’m certain that within a few weeks, they would all be gone.

The Bridge of Flowers website says more than 30,000 people visited the bridge in 2009.  The bridge usually opens April 1, and doesn’t close until the fall frost brings an end to its bounty of bouquets.  Admission is free.

You can take a ride on one of the original trolleys that once crossed the Bridge of Flowers.  It’s on display at the Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum.  The restored trolley spent 65 years as a chicken coop and tool shed on a local farm, until it was discovered and restored.

You should also take a moment to admire Shelburne’s other old bridge, the one you drove across to get to the entrance of the Bridge of Flowers.  The Shelburne Falls Steel Bridge is dated 1890…

… and you’ll get a nice view of it from the nearby Bridge of Flowers.

Back on Route 2…

… I made one final stop at the top of Florida Mountain, at Whitcomb Summit, the highest point on the Mohawk Trail.  There’s a motel and restaurant here…

… as well as an observation tower, which appeared to be off limits.

With ideal weather conditions, you should be able to see four states from Whitcomb Summit’s 2,272-foot (692 meter) peak.
After Whitcomb Summit, the Mohawk Trail quickly drops down to the biggest town in this area, North Adams.

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