A dam is defined as a barrier constructed to hold back water and raise its level, forming a reservoir used to generate electricity or as a water supply. The oldest dam in America is Old Oaken Bucket Pond Dam. It was built in 1640 and is located in Scituate, Massachusetts. The dam is still active today.
Old Oaken Bucket Pond Dam is described as the earliest dam construction documented in the U.S. by the United States Bureau of Reclamation. The Maryland Department of Environment lists Old Oaken Bucket Pond Dam as the oldest dam in the United States. The National Inventory of Dams (NID), a division of The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) recognizes Old Oaken Bucket Pond Dam as the oldest dam in America. The NID is a congressionally authorized database, which documents dams in the U.S. and its territories.
As more settlers arrived in America, tens of thousands of dams were estimated to be built in the mid-Atlantic region of the eastern U.S. These dams were built to support mills, forges, and other industries that needed mechanical hydropower throughout the 17th to early 20th centuries. Today the United States has an estimated 92,075 total dams with an average age of 61 years according to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).
The elevation of Old Oaken Bucket Pond Dam is 5 meters above sea level. The dam's height is 6 feet high and it is 370 feet long. The dam is currently owned and operated by the Town of Scituate, Department Of Public Works Water Division.
Old Oaken Bucket Pond gets its name for a poem written by Samuel Woodworth, published in 1817. A Scituate native, Woodworth was the editor of the New York Mirror. His nostalgic poem about his childhood home brought him, and Scituate, to national acclaim. The original homestead is located on Old Oaken Bucket Road, but it has since been renovated.
The dam is one of two reservoirs on First Herring Brook created by dams. The Town of Scituate draws its municipal water from Old Oaken Bucket Pond. First Herring Brook Reservoir, upstream, feeds Old Oaken Bucket Pond. Both ponds have fish ladders for herring at their dams. There are two dams and two fish ladders on the First Herring Brook. The first dam from the ocean is at Old Oaken Bucket Pond off of the Route 3A rotary.
You can park at the Stockbridge Grist Mill (oldest mill in America) across the street on Old Country Way to visit America's oldest dam. Or you can park at the town water department offices, walk over to the park next to the pond, and walk to the damn's fish ladder as the pond exits into First Herring Brook.
Unfortunately, the herring run for fishing is quite depleted, in part due to the competition for water in the summertime between man and nature. However the NSRWA and the Town of Scituate have been working together to improve stream flows, operate the fish ladders, and restore the fisheries at these sites. This restoration project will ensure adequate water supply for the town, while also supporting wildlife.