33. CULHANE BROOK


 

The name of this sparkling watercourse has changed over the years. All maps before the nineteen thirties identified it as Madison Brook. But on the 1935 USGS map its designation had been changed to Culhane Brook. It is then identified as Culhane Brook on the 1940 and all later maps.

Madison Brook on 1881 Walling Map.

 

Madison Brook on 1891 USGS Map.

The renaming was obviously to honor the Culhane Family, but by what authority was an historic name changed, some old timers ask?

Perhaps as the Campground spread from the bridge northward in the twenties, it became clear that more and more campers were not really setting their tents on Copp Farm property. We can speculate that some honor must have been deemed appropriate for this other early pioneering family.

Culhane Brook feeds into the Peabody at about the 1170 foot elevation mark. Following it from there upstream, there is a meandering through a scenic natural area where it is crossed by the path from Big Meadow to Flat Rock Pool, at about elevation 1200. Proceeding on it crosses under the bridge holding the Campground Road at about 1250 feet.

Culhane Brook in relation to major Campground features

Viewing the downstream side of the Brook from the bridge, a cement barrier implanted aside the channel is visible. According to USFS Ranger Brad Ray “After the swimming pool was shut down we cemented the opening closed to prevent water from going down to the old pool and causing erosion. You might see a date and my initials in the cement.”

Archival records imply that rules as to where one could camp were almost nonexistent in 1921 but were then slowly tightened, especially in the active developmental period between 1935 and 1940. A tidbit of evidence is in a 1939 USFS memo directing that “Near the old camping spot on Culhane Brook which is now signed as closed, the picnic table should be removed.”

In August of 1954 Hurricane Carol hit Dolly Copp hard. Culhane Brook swelled ominously. A sudden massive surge swept over the bridge here (CH). With the bridge damaged camping vehicles were stranded. The Army came in and quickly put in place a temporary repair (CH).

Elsie Ashworth shares photos of the bridge the day after the hurricane. The one below shows the level of Culhane Brook as still above the bridge and sweeping across it:

Perhaps the foundations of the bridge were so weakened that it was considered a loss. These photos show low stucco cement railings, low wall like in structure, as features of the Culhane Bridge crossing at that time.

Moving on a few years, the Appalachia Magazine issue of 6/1960 reported that “At Dolly Copp Campground, a new bridge over Culhane Brook is being built to replace the one destroyed by last fall’s flood. It will be completed before the beginning of the summer camping season.”

Being at a central point the Culhane Brook Bridge serves as a useful “half way point” reference for the pedestrians in the Campground, especially as a landmark for newcomers. Interestingly, fifty five percent of sites are to the north of the bridge and the remainder to the south. Of the distance from Site 1 to Site 180, the Bridge is at the 40% mark.

Near the bridge Culhane Brook provides desirable water access to Sites 83 to 85 and 87, 89 and 91 in nearby Brook Loop, and a similar amenity to Sites 104 to 107 in adjacent High Woods. Little Meadow is also linked to Culhane Brook by a well worn path.

View to west up Culhane Brook

The view up the Brook from the main campground road shows typical rounded boulders as far as can been seen. But this streambed characteristic changes dramatically to the rear of Brook Loop’s Site 85. Here the boulders are cleared away and bedrock is exposed.

 

OBTAIN PHOTOS

 

Madison Pool today

A small natural pool there provides a moment of calm for an otherwise rushing brook. It is suitable for a quick dunk under water or as a good place to relax and read. As such it an amenity for the camp sites nearby. As the historical name for the Culhane was Madison Brook, perhaps in early times this gem could have been known as “Madison Pool,” a fitting description for it today.

Just a little further upstream, between Brook Loop’s Site 84 and 85, the remnants of an old dam are visible. The small reservoir created by the dam was the early source of drinking water piped around the Campground.

Dam for water supply pool on Culhane Brook in early days
Photo courtesy of David Veit

Two cement pedestals still standing below the dam site carried the main distribution pipe from the reservoir (CH). Traditionally, access for staff maintenance to this Culhane Brook feature was from the High Woods side (CH).

By 1957 when the Forest Service regained operational control of the Campground from the AMC, the trend in public health regulations generally frowned upon such small open surface supply sources. It is assumed that due to this influence today's safer groundwater supply system was planned and constructed as a replacement.

The next upstream feature on the Culhane is the Hayes Copp Ski Trail, crossing the Brook on a bridge at about the 1340 foot level, a height 90 feet above the main campground road. The wooden foot bridge here was replaced by a steel bridge capable of holding trucks near 2005.

The 1935 map indicated that at that time an additional access to the upper Culhane was available from the Campground. Proceeding up what was then the new Daniel Webster Trail, a spur trail left it at the 1700 foot contour, where the main Trail for the first time bends away from the Culhane. This little side path (or perhaps logging road remnant?) from the Daniel Webster then paralleled the Culhane and continued on up to end at that watercourse near an elevation of 1900 feet.

Excerpt from the Randolph Mountain Club's 1969
map showing upstream avalanche are in cross hatch