Dangerous dam meets its fate

Canoeing hazard removed

By Tom Benton

Staff Writer

Just
The Facts

Owned by

EAST HIGHGATE — State and local workers removed a mysterious “hole” in the Missisquoi River early this week, a hole that nearly killed two kayakers and dates back to a local scythe manufacturer.

A Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) press release referred to the abutment/hole as the “East Highgate dam,” and that’s what it was, 80 years ago when it generated hydropower for the Rixford Manufacturing Co., which comprised eight acres along the Missisquoi there. Rixford made scythes and axes, and had a gristmill, blacksmith, box, machine and paint shops.

But the deathly image of the scythe is almost appropriate for what the dam’s remnants became: a sinkhole that, like sirens in Greek mythology, seemed to draw unsuspecting river travelers before entrapping them.

Two kayakers were victims of the water’s pull there in 2006. They tried to avoid rapids to their left by aiming for what looked like an easy flow by the abutment to their right.

It took seconds for the actually rushing water to pin their kayak to the abutment, and the men jumped ship. One was able to work his way upstream, but the other found himself sucked through a five-foot-wide hole of broken concrete at the river bottom. He came out safely on its other side.

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