As Natick’s most iconic spot, South Natick Dam Park is the site of a dam and spillway (aka, waterfall) at the intersection of Eliot and Pleasant Streets, and Mill Lane, adjacent to the Bacon Free Library. While the crashing water and traffic over the bridge are loud, the space is at the same time peaceful and a popular location for wedding and other photographs, as well as painters and other artists.
People even have quirky fun waiting for big logs caught at the top of the spillway to topple down (#logwatch)
Wildlife loves it too, as it is home to fish, herons, geese, swans, frogs, turtles, and other critters. Though fish seeking to swim upstream are unable to navigate the decrepit fish ladder at the spillway.
Anglers cast from below the dam in often shallow waters, as well as from above the dam on either side, one shaded by a stand of pine trees that hovers over the earthen dam (much to the chagrin of state regulators).
Picnic tables under the pine trees and benches on the Eliot Street side of the dam provide plenty of places for the public to relax and enjoy the scenery. A little free library makes books easily available, as does the nearby Bacon Free Library, which features its own outdoor seating.
The park dates back to 1933 on the site of a former grist mill, some of whose millstones remain in the park. The Natick Historical Society summarizes the history of the dam, opened in 1934, as well as dams located here previously, all the way back to 1760.
According to the town, “The island in the middle of the river is named for Horace Holyoke, one of the characters from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Old Town Folks.”
Natick’s Select Board voted in the fall of 2022 to remove the dam and spillway rather than repair it, citing financial, ecological, and cultural reasons. The dam and spillway are expected to remain until at least about 2027, though it’s possible the town could change its mind again—it previously had planned to repair the structure. The town website includes a page documenting the dam project.
Those seeking to Save Natick Dam have vowed to try to convince the town to reverse course and repair rather than remove the dam/spillway.