Riverscape

The Connecticut River - New England

Barrie B Greenbie, 1997

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These 66 color photographs were taken from a small airplane at an altitude of 600 to 1,000 feet, following the length of the Connecticut River for four hundred miles through four of America's six New England states.

Like so many other beautiful rivers in America, the Connecticut cannot be seen from much of the land along its banks, in contrast with older landscapes of Europe and elsewhere which were settled long before the Industrial Revolution when rivers were the focal points of cities and cultivated land. In colonial New England, rivers were also once both water highways and the cultural focal point. This was especially true of the Connecticut, which linked four of what became six separate states and served as a boundary between two of them. But when the railroads were laid along its banks to keep grades moderate, the river lost much of its social importance. Industrialization polluted the river to the point where it became known as "the country's best landscaped sewer," socially and aesthetically on "the wrong side of the tracks."

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In the last twenty years, the pollution has been cleared up to a remarkable extent, but the greater portion of the Connecticut remains overgrown along its banks. It is possible to drive over 300 miles along Interstate Highway 91 from Hartford, Connecticut to St. Johnsbury, Vermont and rarely see the river, although the highway parallels it most of the way. The view is not much better from the local roads that meander closer to the water. Not only can the river not be seen from most points on land, but the many pleasure boaters who use the river cannot see the land beyond the endless fringe of trees. The fundamental relationship of water to topography is thus obscured.

Visually, the essence of a river experience is that of a flowing, continuously varied, connected space defined by solid land. Under present conditions on the Connecticut, the only way to sense that from the ground is from a mountainside, for example, the view that inspired 19th century painters such as Thomas Cole to immortalize the Oxbow as seen from Mount Holyoke in Hadley, Massachusetts. However, even quite splendid single viewpoints do not give the full sense of the sequential connectedness of the river as a whole to the countryside it passes through. From a high flying commercial plane, there is an extended view, but it is flat, lacking any sense of three dimensional space. Only a low flying plane or helicopter provides the full awareness of river-plus-valley in a continuous progression.

Readers might be interested to know that Barrie was able to complete a book about the River Connecticut to be published by YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS in 1999, just prior to his death in Ocober 1998.

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 CD-Rom designed in HyperStudio* (registered trade mark)by MAP21 Ltd. The programme runs on Windows 95, Windows 3.1 and Macintosh; an appropriate run time Player is included in the price (please specify). The CD-Roms run on computers with at least 8Mb RAM.

*HyperStudio¨ -registered Trade Mark - Roger Wagner Publishing, Inc.

 

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1 Nov 1998