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Fire Dept: Rumors about ‘mysterious stumps’ unfounded

  • A stump in Lake Mattawa. Courtesy photo/ORANGE FIRE DEPARTMENT

  • Lake Mattawa’s “mysterious stumps” may be mysterious, but they are not an act of vandalism, and have been around for a long time, according to the Orange Fire Department. Courtesy photo/ORANGE FIRE DEPARTMENT

Staff Writer
Published: 11/4/2019 10:44:58 PM

ORANGE — Officials are stumped over the origins of Lake Mattawa’s mysterious floating logs or driftwood.

But, to clear things up, there is nothing nefarious, no sign of vandalism and no basis to rumors that the stumps in Lake Mattawa were put in the lake purposely, according to the Orange Fire Department, which recently worked with the Northfield Dive/Rescue Team to investigate the stumps.

“This is simply a mystery of nature,” said the Fire Department in a statement.

According to the Fire Department, over the last few weeks or months people have contacted lake scientists, the Orange Police Department, Northfield Dive/Rescue Team and Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, looking for an explanation to the stumps, which have appeared to pop up randomly to float in the middle of the lake.

Rumors about the warped, strange-looking stumps include “that they were intentionally placed there, that someone cut the base of the stumps and they are now floating, tie-down straps are being used to keep them in place, and that there are ropes tied to concrete blocks and the stumps,” according to the Fire Department, which jokingly referred to the bizarre incident as “local legends, a fisherman’s tale, a conspiracy theory, Stumpgate 2019.”

There is no evidence for any of the rumors.

The Northfield Dive/Rescue Team, a volunteer organization that often assists local fire departments, recently went into the lake and investigated three submerged stump piles.

Furthermore, last week, Orange Police Officer Travis Rushford and his brother, Orange Fire Department Lt. Jason Rushford, went on a boating reconnaissance mission at the lake to literally get to the bottom of the stumps.

Using the Fire Department’s underwater camera system, each pile of stumps was investigated. A video taken during the mission of the mangled stump piles is viewable on the Fire Department’s official Facebook page, Orange Fire Rescue EMS.

It was determined that each pile is only in water approximately 4 feet to 5½ feet deep; piles span from the bottom of the lake to the surface — the stumps are not floating or moving; there are very large stumps on the bottom, with twigs, branches and driftwood on top; and there are no straps, ropes, bungee cords, concrete blocks or anything else holding the stumps in place.

Also, there are no fresh cuts on any of the wood, or any evidence of any cutting or vandalism, for that matter, and the stumps have been in the water “for years,” according to the Fire Department.

“It is absolutely possible that with the lower water levels, partly due to the previously damaged culvert at the four corners, someone saw the stumps pop up and rearranged the driftwood and stump piles to make it more eco-friendly for our animal friends,” according to the Fire Department. “We could’ve easily moved the driftwood on the stumps if we wanted to, but there was no malicious activity found.”

While the stumps might be a mystery, “there is evidence,” according to the Fire Department, that birds are having a great time using the debris as a place to stand and enjoy the beautiful lake.

Reach David McLellan at 413-772-0261, ext. 268 or

Greenfield Recorder

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Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906


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