A Plane Crash in the Woods

The other day we took a trip to a place we’ve hiked many times before. This day, our goal was to find the remains of a place that crashed in the 1950’s in the Quabbin Reservoir. As I said, we’ve been here before, but it had been a few years and when we tried to revisit it in July, we missed a turn and never managed to reach our goal. That day was a hot and buggy day at 95 degrees and we had Emily with us which made such a long trek more difficult.

Before I really get into it I have to plead for people to PLEASE not take souvenirs from these amazing historical places home with you. I have been visiting these spots for almost 10 years and when I came home from this trek and compared the photos and video to the photos I took 5 or 6 years ago, it broke my heart. People have clearly been picking and taking, soon there will be nothing left for others to see. So PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE have some respect and remember the words of Chief Seattle of the Squamish “Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints”. I know this is not what he had in mind as his speech in the 1800’s was about ecological responsibility but I still feel his words apply here. 

The history of the plane crash

Lt. Dewwey Durett Was flying a routine mission to Niagra Falls and back in his F-94B Starfire out of Barnes Air Base in Westfield, MA in April of 1955. During this flight one of the fabulous April Nor Easters New England has become known for was blowing through. There was a strong headwind causing the plane to burn fuel faster than normal. Because of this he chose to cut his flight short and turn around over Syracuse, NY. As he neared the Quabbin Reservoir (at this point, it had been less than 20 years since the disincorporation and dismantling of the towns of Dana, Enfield, Prescott and Greenwich Massachusetts and the flooding of the area. Lt. Durett’s navigational system malfunctioned. Radar from the ground could not correctly identify his plane (Radar at that time relied on the radar operator on the ground asking the pilot to move in a certain pattern, when the blip on the screen moved in that same pattern they thought they had the right plane). With only about 20 gallons of gas left in his tank (about 2 minutes of flying time) Lt. Durett chose to aim his plane down towards the Quabbin Reservior and eject. Since he saw no explosion from the impact, he assumed the plane had crashed into the water and sank into the depths of the Quabbin Reservoir. He, luckily, ended up landing on Prescott Peninsula (an area, unfortunately, not open to the public) and not only lived to tell about it but lived to see the wreckage of his plane which was found 45 years later with a local boy scout troop. Here are some images (obviously not mine, I pulled them from a google search) to show you what the plane looked like:

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SI Neg. 2002-19474. Date: na. Left side aerial views of Lockheed P-80C Shooting Star (s/n 47-176) and Lockheed F-94C Starfire (s/n 50-966) in flight over mountains. Credit: unknown (Smithsonian Institution)

SI Neg. 2002-19474. Date: na.
Left side aerial views of Lockheed P-80C Shooting Star (s/n 47-176) and Lockheed F-94C Starfire (s/n 50-966) in flight over mountains.
Credit: unknown (Smithsonian Institution)

How do you get there?

Leaving your car in the spacious parking area of gate 40 on route 32A in Petersham, MA, you walk in the gate and head straight down the paved road. This is the road that leads you into what remains of the Dana Common. We will post a more detailed tour of the area leading up to the common in a future post this Winter. The details are just easier to see when the plant life is hibernating.

To get to the Dana Common just follow the paved road all the way down. It’s about a 1-1/2 mile hike. There are a ton of interesting artifacts on the road into town (again, a post for a later date), below you can join us on a video tour of the common area as well as the trip from the common to the crash site.

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An old safe left inside a cellar hole in the Dana Common. You cannot see it at the moment but we’ll see if it is still visible when we go back in a few months. You can see even from the 2 images above, how things change. I’m sure these changes have help from the hands of people.

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A close view of the back of the Dana school house. Perhaps there were stairs that went down or maybe just an entry way? I think this was taken later in the fall. Perhaps when we go back later on it will be visible again. I showed this area in detail in the both videos and this part is not visible at all.

Below: Views of the old Vaughn homestead. The foundation is made entirely of stones plucked from nearby stream and riverbeds. This was a labor of love, for sure.

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in the above image you can see a difference from the video. If you noticed in the video the items that were shown in that corner to my husbands left, you can see not all of those things were there when this photo was taken. Every time we go we can see how people have taken things, moved things and even how mother nature has changed things so much. I first visited this area in 2007 and each year Mother Nature reclaims more and more of what was left behind.

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Having a rest at the Dana Congregational Church before continuing on what will be our failed expedition.

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Checking out and old well to the left of the church.

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Watch your step!

Once you arrive at the Dana Common and are ready to continue to the plane crash, you want to take the road to the left called Greenfield Dana Road. tay on the paved road, don’t go too far left down the dirt road that forks off (If you do, you wont make it very far as this road quickly goes down into the water). It’s about another mile and a half or so to the plane crash.

Continue on the paved road, over a small causeway. A ways up on your left you will see a newer wooden post in the ground and a green DCR sign that says 40-5B. Take this grassed over dirt road. Follow it up the hill until you see a very prominent stone wall/foundation on your left, immediately after this you will see a well beaten path into the woods marked by small orange flags. take this path down the hill and in a minute or 2 you will begin to see the wreckage. You have arrived!

The whole trip took us about 4 to 4-1/2 hours, and that included (2) 1/2 hour (ish) stops at the common and some other short explorations, water stops and whatnot.

Here are some photos I took from our last trip about 5 years ago. See if you can see any differences, changes, missing pieces? Can you identify any of the parts?

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As you can see my kids were definitely a lot smaller. Abigail looks to be about 3 or 4 in these photos and caleb maybe 6? Had I had the forethought I would have taken note of the date the photos were taken when I exported them…. *sigh*

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The more I look through these images and think about what we saw the other day. People have definitely been taking souvenirs. I think it is so sad that they can’t just leave it alone. I tell my kids “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories”.

If you want to learn more about the Quabbin Reservoir and its history and people. Here are a few of our favorite resources and books:

http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/dcr/massparks/region-central/quabbin-reservoir.html

http://www.foquabbin.org/

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1 Response

  1. Jackie Lee says:

    Wow! This is so interesting! What an exciting thing to be able to see with your kids!

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