West Harbor Pond was created in 1880 when a dam was constructed across the mouth of Campbell Cove where it enters Boothbay Harbor. The goal was to impound fresh water flowing from Campbell Stream in order to develop a commercial ice business. The new company was intended to provide off-season employment for the community's workers by producing natural ice for sale to the large urban centers of the Eastern Seaboard. A road constructed along the top of the dam eventually became State Route 27.
Sea water trapped behind the dam was removed by a large, passive siphon, which subsequently served to remove any sea water that might seep through the dam. So far as is known, it is the only one in the state of Maine. Any salt water that enters the Pond sinks to the bottom because of its greater density. As the tide receded on the Harbor side of the dam, the siphon, whose intake was at the 24' level, would draw this salt water from the bottom of the Pond and return it to the Harbor. Above the 24' level was fresh water that turned over seasonally, re-oxygenating the Pond and maintaining its aquatic health.
In 2008, after 130 years of maintaining the Pond's water quality, the siphon failed and the the salt water layer in the bottom of the Pond rose from the 24' level to the 15' level. This salt water layer did not turn over seasonally, was entirely de-oxygenated, and could no longer sustain aquatic life. In March 2019, after a successful fund-raising campaign that was strongly supported by the entire community, the WHPWA replaced the old, failed siphon, and the new siphon has been responsible for a dramatic improvement in the Pond’s water quality. For much more about the siphon, go to our siphon page.
View more historical images in this gallery.
Section of circa 1857 map of Campbell Cove.
Cutting ice blocks on West Harbor Pond and floating them to the loading ramp at the Maine Ice Company’s West Harbor icehouse (where Boothbay Harbor Yacht Club tennis courts presently stand) (before 1928). Courtesy of the Boothbay Region Historical Society.
View from the afterdeck of the General E. S. Greeley (New Haven) showing ice coming up the conveyor belt of the Maine Ice Company’s wharf to the point where it is ready to tip down ramp and into the Greeley’s hold (Feb. 22, 1907). Courtesy of the Boothbay Region Historical Society.