Wicked Good Guides / Boston Cityviews /

Hemlock Gorge

I'd been driving up and down Rte. 9 in Newton for more than 20 years. And I never knew there was a gorge just off the highway.

Take Rte. 9 eastbound and just past Rte. 128 and just before you go up the steep hill into Newton, turn right, pull into the small parking lot by the solitary stone building (apparently the remains of what was once a much larger factory complex) and boom, there you are: Hemlock Gorge and Echo Bridge (there is another parking lot a bit further up Ellis Street that is more convenient for getting to the bridge). It's where the Charles River has its steepest drop and where you can, they say, hear your voice come back to you 15 times. When you turn off your engine, the first thing you hear is water falling over a dam right by the road:

Three of these gizmos control the level of the water at the dam:

The same dam seen from just upriver - say good-bye to the Charles as it disappears under Ellis Street and Rte. 9.

Walk along the river a bit and Echo Bridge comes into view:

As you follow the path, you gradually forget the steady hum of traffic on Rte. 9 - a bluejay squawks; a squirrel scampers away. Suddenly, you're in the woods! You come to a small footbridge across a brook feeding into the Charles, from which, if you're lucky, you'll see a beaver or two.

Echo Bridge is actually an aqueduct, built in 1876 to carry water from Lake Cochituate into Boston. Today, the aqueduct is officially on standby status, just in case the two main aqueducts feeding Boston go kablooie at once.

Supposedly, the arch over the Charles - some 50 feet up and 130 feet at its widest point - is one of the largest stone arches in the world (the entire span is 500 feet long). You can walk down to a small platform on the riverbank from which you can experiment with the echoes that gave the bridge its name:

After you scream yourself silly, you can walk (or jog) across the top of the aqueduct:

Look one way, and you see a dam by one of Newton Upper Falls' few remaining factories:

Look the other way, and you can see more of Newton and Rte. 9 (the "BWW" stands for "Boston Water Works," a predecessor of the MDC and today's MWRA):

Read more

The Friends of Hemlock Gorge Web site has lots of interesting information about the history of the gorge and the bridge.

More Hemlock Gorge photos.

Hemlock Gorge park information. The gorge is part of the state's Charles River Reservation (it was one of the first pieces of land acquired for the park).


the gorge and bridge were at one time the most heavily visited tourist/picnic site in america as trolleys transported city folks there to picnic on summer weekends.

reoh on August 27, 2004 02:01 AM.

I was born in the house next to the top of the steps, in 1928. I still have fond memories of playing on and around the bridge. Kids had a lot more freedom back then.

James Hayes on November 21, 2004 04:14 PM.

I lived in the house at the bottom of Echo Bridge on Ellis Street from 1952 to
1960. One of my fondest memories is attending Easter Sunrise Services on top of Echo Bridge, then going to the little church on top of the hill for hot cocoa and donuts. As a little girl, I remember marveling at how big my shadow looked when I stood on top of the bridge in the late afternoons. It is a unique and beautiful place, but to me, at the time, it was the place I called home.

Betty Fraser Smith on November 23, 2005 11:03 AM.

I am writing on behalf of the Friends of Hemlock Gorge. We only recently learned of this page, and I've placed a link to it on our site. Your pictures are quite lovely and creative. We hope you continue to enjoy the park as much as we do. I'd only ask that you update your link to the Friends of Hemlock Gorge website which is now at

John Mordes on March 28, 2008 02:58 PM.

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