Keystone Arches: Gems in our backyard


Say, did you happen to read DFW Western District Manager Andrew Madden’s fine article in the most recent issue of the Massachusetts Wildlife magazine dealing with the Westfield River Keystone Arches? The pictures were magnificent and so was the article. Those granite arches truly are gems in Western Mass. They were built in the 1840s when the Western Railroad was extended out through the Berkshires.

Due to the serpentine course, the arches cross the river 10 times and are wholly dry laid, not a drop of mortar was used in them. Some of them are no longer used because new bridges were built when they relocated part of the line.

For the longest time, they could only be reached by trespassing and walking along the railroad tracks which follow the West Branch of the Westfield River between Bancroft (part of Middlefield) and Chester. But recently a 2.5-mile hiking trail was constructed to two bridges abandoned in 1912 which are on the property of the Mass. DFW (Walnut Hill Wildlife Management Area).

There is much more information on the arches in Madden’s article and also on a website

Coincidentally, a close friend (Fred Rugo, from Rhode Island) and I were there the same week the article came out. He had heard about the arches and asked me to take him there to view them and perhaps fish while we were there. Because we were in a hot weather spell (80 degrees by 11 a.m.), I couldn’t assure him that the fishing would be all that great. Instead, we fished the Housatonic River in Lee that morning and later went to visit the arches.

I was unaware at the time of the above-referenced hiking trail and we entered off of Middlefield Road in Chester near the twin arches area. While there we saw two teen-aged boys fishing the holes near the trestles. It was good to see the kids enjoying the outdoors during their summer vacations instead of being stuck in front of computer screens. We asked one kid if he caught any trout and he had. He went upstream to retrieve the fish he had stashed in a cold water hole to preserve them. We couldn’t believe the size of one of those rainbow trout -- it had to be 17 inches long and the second one was well over a foot long. He was so proud of those fish, and rightly so.

Guess I had better start fishing that stretch again next year, although it is not the easiest place to get to, especially as you go upstream a ways from Chester toward Middlefield. As I recall, in some places you have to be part mountain goat in order to get to the river some 65 or 70 feet below the arches.


We all have been seeing what is happening in California with the drought they are currently experiencing. Things are getting so bad that the rivers and reservoirs there are being de-watered. In the eastern Massachusetts they are also having some problems with water shortages. This issue was addressed in the latest newsletter from MassWildlife in an article entitled "Sustainable stream flow, balancing the needs of fish and people."

The article states that because both fish and people need water, the DFW is playing an important role to ensure that the stream flow needs of fish are considered in the water withdrawal permitting process. DFW has been participating in Sustainable Water Management Initiative (SWMI) stakeholder meetings and providing input on revisions to the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Water Management Act.

Working with DEP, state agencies, water suppliers, environmental advocates, industry representatives and concerned citizens have crafted a framework designed to ensure a balance between human and environmental needs for stream flow. The framework describes the methodology for defining Safe Yield in each of the state’s 27 watersheds and how stream flow criteria will be applied by DEP when issuing Water Management Act permits.

From the largest bass to the smallest minnow, fish and fish habitats benefit from protected stream flow. This, in turn, benefits anglers who pay for fish and wildlife conservation through fishing license and equipment purchases. SWMI’s proposed Water Management Act revisions are designed to prevent past extreme conditions such as the dry river beds and dead fish that occurred in the Ipswich River. The current Water Management Act revisions recognize how critical stream flow alterations can negatively affect fish communities. At the same time, the proposed revisions continue to ensure water availability for the needs of people.


The American Museum of Fly Fishing in Manchester, Vt. (next to the Orvis store) has announced a program entitled, "Angling & Art: The Confluence of Passions." Art and the sport of fly fishing have been intimately connected throughout history and remain so today; from angler Winslow Homer to naturalist James Prosek, artists have captured the magic and chronicled the heritage of fly fishing for centuries.

This year, Angling & Art takes place through the month of July and will be held in its nationally recognized Gardner L. Grant library located at 4070 Main Street in Manchester. We are also invited to an informal artist workshop with artists George Van Hook and Dave Morse on Saturday, July 26 from 1-3 p.m. For more information, click onto its web page activities.


Concerned about ticks and the possibility of getting infected by them? I received a couple of e-mails from readers giving information on an informational website ( It lists seven types of ticks here in the U.S. along with pictures, geographic locations, diseases transmitted by them and the symptoms, how to avoid them, how to remove them and more. Check it out.

Questions/comments: Phone/fax: (413) 637-1818


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