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Floating Islands Familiar Feature in Round Pond

posted Oct 1, 2010, 1:38 PM by Bob Switzer   [ updated Apr 18, 2018, 2:00 PM ]
(Note: This article originally appeared in the Bethel Citizen on Sep 30, 2010. Reproduced with permission.)

They’re like icebergs — most of the threat lurks beneath the surface.

But residents of Round Pond in Greenwood have apparently learned to live with the mysterious “floating islands” that turn up every few years.

They are generally composed of a combination of tree roots and matted plants.

A couple of weeks ago, a roughly 25x15 foot island surfaced, long-time summer resident Ruth Blakney said. It is estimated to be four to five feet thick.

The island was first spotted by her neighbor, and currently sits about a hundred yards off her dock.

“There have been at least five of them in my memory,” said Blakney, a Connecticut native who has been summering on the pond since 1937.

The islands often survive for several years, until weather finally wears them down and breaks them up, she said.

Where do they come from?

The answer isn’t certain, but the local theory involves the Alder River.

The river originates in adjacent South Pond. But because the river was dammed up in the mid-19th century next to the Saunders Mill, the water backed up.

Round and North ponds were created by the dam, and as a result, there are dead trees and stumps at the bottom of shallow Round Pond.

The river coming out of South Pond is now a channel flowing through the pond.

Residents believe that occasionally that channel cuts out a section of old tree and plant material from along the shore, setting it adrift.

“There’s always a lot of roots and vegetation from the bottom of the lake,” said Blakney.

The new island typically drifts along until it gets hung up on something under the water.

Depending on the location, pond residents either let it be or move it.

The islands tend to sink a bit, said Blakney, which can make them hard for boaters to see. “The danger is what is just under the water,” she said.

If safety is a concern, someone usually secures a rope to the floating mass and tows it to a safer location, usually up against a bank out of the way.

“We towed one 12 or 15 years ago,” she said. “They’re just part of life on Round Pond.”

- A. Aloisio