Day Trip to Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts
The sun was just peeking over the hills as I headed south on Route 10 toward Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, painting the landscape in hues of rust and burnt umber. The end of October is a bit late in the season to expect the fiery reds and yellows of peak foliage in the northern New England states, but there was plenty of richly colored scenery to behold as the road snaked through New Hampshire into Massachusetts.
The village of Shelburne Falls is an anomaly in that it spans two towns – Shelburne and Buckland, both of which offer much to explore on a crisp fall day. Each year, sightseers looking flock to the Bridge of Flowers, which stretches over the Deerfield River to connect Shelburne and Buckland. A former trolley track, this 400-foot arched bridge had fallen into disuse after the railway company that operated it went bankrupt. Enter the Shelburne Falls Women’s Club, who sponsored a project in 1928 that would take the bridge from visual blight to public garden. Today the community still works together to keep this popular perennial garden in bloom.
When strolling across the bridge in autumn, you might be surprised to find flowers dotting the foot path’s borders well past their usual season. The bridge does close at the end of October, though, so if this is on your list of things to do in Shelburne Falls, be sure to plan your visit accordingly.
Shelburne Falls’ other claim to fame – and the one I was most interested in seeing – is its glacial potholes. They’re right downtown and easy to find – just let the giant arrow lead you down Deerfield Avenue to the scenic overlook to enjoy this spectacle of nature. At the foot of the falls, the combination of granite and water spinning around like whirlpools gouged more than 50 holes into the rock surface at the end of the glacial age. These potholes – also known as kettles – range in size from a few inches to several feet in diameter. The biggest one extends 39 feet, making it the largest natural pothole on record. Folks used to scramble down the rocks to lounge in these pools on hot summer days, but that’s no longer allowed due to risk of injury. So if you’re fascinated with the power of nature, this is a site worth visiting…from the safety of the viewing platform.
After stopping to watch the water pound over the falls, I headed back to Bridge Street for a quick perusal of my breakfast options and popped into Fox Towne Coffee Shoppe. The service was fast, the regulars chatty, and my bill totaled less than seven dollars. Consider me a fan. If you’re looking for a quick caloric pick-me-up that’s more refreshing than filling, I suggest a stop at the Baker Pharmacy which still features an old-time soda fountain. Perch atop one of the vintage bar stools and enjoy a cold drink.
Shelburne Falls supports area artisans and you can find locally crafted goods on both sides of the river. A wide array of fine arts and crafts can be found at Shelburne Arts Coop and Salmon Falls Artisans Showroom located in Shelburne and Buckland, respectively. And if you love independent bookstores, you have three to choose from! I was lured into Boswell’s Books on Bridge Street by the prominent display of titles penned by regional authors as well the chance to meet local celebrity, Boswell the cat.
A word of advice – if you can make a trip to Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, on a weekend, do so, as you’ll have a broader selection of things to do. More shops will be open and the No. 10 trolley, which runs on Saturdays,Sundays and Holiday from Memorial Day through the end of October, will be in operation. By visiting during the week, I missed the chance to hop aboard this 1896 trolley car to be whisked around town.