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An Editorial

When people wore gas masks to protect from the man-made stench of the Connecticut River

A few venturous folks have travelled from the source of the Connecticut River, Fourth Connecticut Lake near Pittsburg, New Hampshire, all the way to its mouth into Long Island Sound at Old Saybrook. None have done it with more panache than Dr. Joseph P. Davidson, former head of the Connecticut River Watershed Council, predecessor of today’s Connecticut River Conservancy. Davidson and his wife and an entourage of varying sizes depending upon the location, spent seven noncontiguous days travelling from the River’s source to the sea in 1959 (the documentary of which can be found on YouTube, “From Source to Sea - A Connecticut River Journey”).

Davidson engaged a fleet of different watercraft including canoe, rowboat, classic motorboats, a motor yacht, and a sea skiff. Dignitaries, including the governor of one of the four watershed states, met the travelers at various ports, boat clubs, and marinas along the way. Superb media coverage was a tribute to Davidson’s When people wore gas masks to protect from the man-made stench of the Connecticut River An Editorial promotional instincts. Prior to reaching the tidal waters below Enfield, Connecticut, the group travelled most of the way in extensive lakes formed by large dams, dams for flood and pollution control as well as hydroelectric power plants.

It is interesting to note that Dr. Davidson envisioned in 1959 that the River would be managed (dredged, charted, etc.) to handle more commercial, industrial traffic; as it happens, the reverse is true.

While extolling the natural beauty all along this memorable trip, on more than one leg of the journey, the group was forced to don gas masks to pass over raw sewage infesting the water. Look what has transpired in the intervening years—the Connecticut River today is a living, beautiful, relatively odorless, testimony to how people, government, and institutions can work together to resolve what might otherwise be contentious, even what may at first appear to be irreconcilable, economic, and conservation matters.