And the Water Runs Through It

For decades, I drove the town roads – and the “water” was Lake Winthrop, Factory Pond or perhaps the Bogastow Brook. A beautiful threesome, but rather limited given the rich web of water that runs through our town. In the last five years, with the Holliston Rail Trail completed, I have been able to open my eyes to the extensive waterway network that flows throughout all corners of our town. Be it when walking, or skiing or biking on the re-purposed railway bed, I have noticed so much more water flow than I had ever imagined. I have asked, “Where does that water come from? How do these numerous brooks and streams connect to lake and pond – and finally, of course, how do they all make a good contribution to the Charles River?”

So here I offer up several photos of some of the modest starting points and connectors of our “east of Highland Street” brooks and streams.

  1. Hill St. has three small streams feeding down to the south shore of Lake Winthrop.

2. The Winthrop Canal is now seen with clarity from different perspectives from up along the Rail Trail.

3. Jar Brook – sourcing at the Ashland town line – flows down under Winter St. near Stagecoach Rd. and heads on to Houghton’s Pond and then under Washington St. to Factory Pond (Woodland St.) and the Bogastow.

4) Dopping Brook starts up at the Sherborn town line and sneaks under the Rail Trail on its long journey to the connection with the Bogastow to slide under Fiske St. and then Central St. further downstream –finally headed out to the Charles River in Millis.

None of this is to belittle the tiny stream that comes quietly down under Pearl St., over to the narrow Austin Lane channel, then under Washington St. and down by the Peddler’s Lane wetlands and under the Rail Trail to feed the Lake Winthrop wetland ponding just west of the access road to Pleasure Point. This flow then feeds into the Winthrop Canal just below the culvert at Arch Street. Even the Holliston Library (John’s Shoe Repair?) parking lot has a little slot stream feeding down to the Winthrop Canal. It is, in fact, carrying water that originates in the very modest Willow Brook tucked in the hidden swale between the Green St. houses and the Hollis St. houses as one looks up toward Powder House Hill. A culvert – presumably quite substantial in design – carries the water under Washington St. and several parking areas to connect to the canal.

Some will point out that I have ignored the “west of Highland Street” waters that entwine and snake under the Rail Trail as they flow down to the Medway section of the Charles River. Yes, Chicken Brook and Hopping Brook need their day in the sun also. Alas, there are too many waters to fully describe and photograph in this short space: they can await another day. Let us just remember and appreciate fully that these waters run freely—and with some subtle beauty— through our town. Also, as Spring approaches, we can reflect upon how fortunate we are that the

Rail Trail serves to bring us into a closer connection with our many flowing brooks and streams—all Good Waters running through our town.

Walter McClennen


  1. Rick Shansky on March 12, 2023 at 9:54 am

    Nice pics and narrative. We also have Dirty Meadow Brook in East Holliston. Runs from Sherborn I believe.

    • Walter McClennen on March 15, 2023 at 10:17 am

      Thanks Rick for mentioning this. Dirty Meadow Brook is indeed one of our contributors to the Bogastow and then the Charles. Cutting under Bullard St. For space reasons, I was not able to refer to all the water flows that wash though the town. Good you spoke up! Walter

  2. John Kenney on March 12, 2023 at 8:48 pm

    Well done. Thanks.

    • Bob Horrigan on March 13, 2023 at 3:00 pm

      Played in Chicken Brook behind Summer St my whole youth. When Axton Cross was built and had a spill the brook died.

  3. Lee DeSorgher on March 13, 2023 at 8:45 am

    Nice article Walter – I remember when we first moved here and seeing these canal/brooks popping up all over town

  4. Paul Saulnier on March 14, 2023 at 6:11 pm

    Thanks Walter.

  5. Liz Theiler on March 15, 2023 at 10:43 am

    Just beautiful photos of our precious resource, water.
    Outstanding article! Thank you for sharing!

  6. Mike Redden on March 16, 2023 at 2:27 pm

    I lived on Maple Street next to Jar Brook where it went under the road. Our backyard and basement flooded sometimes when there was rain and snow melting in the spring. The flow was improved when Jar Brook was relocated in the Queens development. That was the end of flooding.

  7. Jerry Miller on March 16, 2023 at 2:58 pm

    Appreciate the connection to land water town and time you have. Maybe you have read Walden Pond. John’s shoe repair goes over 50 years back. Spent my childhood and Boy Scout years in town when there were only 2 school buses. Names and faces change. Sounds like the waterways are still the same.

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