Nequasset Dam and Fish Ladder History

 Alewives have long been important to Maine communities for food and bait for fishing. 

As a result, laws were created as early as the 1700s that protected them. All mills had to have chutes so that the alewives could complete their spawning runs into the Lake. When the first dam at Nequasset Lake was built, it, too, had to provide a passageway for the alewives to get into the lake to spawn. Laws continued to be put in place throughout the 18th and 19th centuries for the protection of the life cycle of the alewives.

Nequasset Fish Ladders

Fish ladder designs changed over time.  The initial structure was a wooden fishway that was last rebuilt in 1889.  A stone fishway was built with the concrete dam that was constructed in 1920.  The 1955-2014 ladder had a design closest to that seen today.  This concrete ladder was built after the 1954 hurricane season completely washed out the old fish ladder structure.

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This fish ladder built of stone and wood helped alewives over the dam in the early 1900s.   Photo courtesy of the Woolwich Historical Society.
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The 1955 Fish Ladder was built of concrete. It was a similar design to the ladder that can be seen today.







Nequasset Dams

The dams at the outlet of Nequasset Lake initially held the water back so it could be used to power mills.  Up until the early 1900s, log chutes were important for carrying logs downriver to mills on the Kennebec.  As time went on, the dams were used to control the water level.  Nequasset Lake now serves as the drinking water source for the towns of Bath, West Bath, Woolwich, and Wiscasset, and the dam is owned by the Bath Water District.  They have owned the dam since 1915.

Stone dam and log chute from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Photo courtesy of the Woolwich Historical Society.
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Concrete dam built in 1955. Photo courtesy of the Woolwich Historical Society



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Concrete dam at Nequasset today.


The fish ladder is located near the heart of town, and has been an important site throughout Woolwich’s history

Return to Nequasset Fish Ladder Restoration Project webpage