The great expanse of stamp sands we currently were standing on, all originated from the Mohawk mill behind us. The water/stamp sand solution that exited the stamp mill was carried by water chutes (called launders) to the lake’s edge where they were dumped. Over time, the stamp sands would fill the lake bottom and build up until they formed new land along the lake’s edge. When this happened, the launders were extended across these sands to open water and the process repeated. Over the years these launders would be extended multiple times, and in the case of the Mohawk mill, reaching a good half-mile into the lake. Traditionally these launders were made from wood, essentially a wide plank with high walls in which the water flowed. That is what we were expecting at Mohawk, but came across something else entirely.
At first we didn’t know what it was, but it was immense. We could see it from atop the ruins behind us extending out across the sands to the waters edge. It appeared to be a long concrete pier, punctuated by short concrete “stacks” at regular intervals along its length. Standing next to it here on the sands, we could see that it was in fact a long concrete tunnel. It was about five feet in height, and about three feet wide. Looking down its length, I could make out sunlight spilling into the tunnel from the “stacks” along its length. While apparently straight from above, inside the tunnel slightly weaves back and forth along its length, keeping me from seeing what was at the other end.
Climbing on top, we followed its length along the sands. Most of the “stacks” were damaged, some missing all together. They all had bolts and rods along the edges of their opening, which led us to believe that they once sported a cap of some type. Peering inside, we could see the inside of the tunnel sprinkled with various piece of junk and a few plants taking advantage of the sunlight. After a deceptively long walk, we came to the new shoreline along the lake. Here the sands took a steep dive into the water, making a sheer cliff about ten feet from the water’s edge. Here the tunnel kept going, reaching out over the cliff like a diving platform. Walking gently to it’s end, I could see another twenty feet of so of the tunnel lying broken below me on the beach. It became clear to us that this was in fact the launder, but made of concrete instead of wood.
It must have been built some time into the mills existence, since it seemed to be built right on top of the sands. Perhaps each of the stacks was in fact a place where they added on to the launder, when the encroaching sands made it necessary. Or perhaps it was built in one long piece, with the stacks behind some sort of maintenance access. Either way, it was clear that the launder made it’s way out to the end of the sands. Over time, the lake eroded the sands out from under it, and soon parts of it collapsed into the lake as it did here. Who knows how much further out the sands once reached, but it was at least twenty feet further then it was now judging from the broken piece below us.