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August 6, 2004

Putting the “Echo” Back in Echo Bridge
MWRA Restores Echo Platform and Stairway

Boston's water supply no longer flows through the aqueduct inside historic Echo Bridge, but the stone arch's famous echo can still be heard. As a result of construction work by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, visitors to the Hemlock Gorge Reservation can use a new stairway and platform to safely bounce their voices off the bridge's central span over the Charles River.

State Representatives Ruth Balser and Alice Peisch join Newton Alderman Brian Yates, the Friends of Hemlock Gorge and MWRA and DCR staff. Click here for more photos.
Visitors to Echo Bridge
A ceremony marking the completion of the platform was hosted yesterday by the Friends of Hemlock Gorge on the Newton Upper Falls end of the bridge. Friends President and Newton Alderman Brian Yates offered an echoing toast on the new platform. He thanked the MWRA construction crew and State Representatives Ruth Balser, Kay Khan, Alice Peisch, Lida Harkins and State Senators Cynthia Creem and Pamela Resor for their leadership on the platform project and current efforts to secure state funding to restore the historic railings on the bridge.

"This work will help visitors to enjoy this fine example of bridge and water system architecture, and play safely with the incredible echo feature along the riverbank, said MWRA Executive Director Frederick A. Laskey.

Over many years the stairway leading to a small wooden platform under the main arch along the riverbank eroded and became dangerous. The new stairway and platform allow visitors to get safely into position under the main 130-foot arch over the river. New footings for the platform were poured and drilled into the rock surface. Visitors standing on the platform can speak softly and still produce an echo that repeats 10-15 times, thus the name "Echo Bridge."

The state Department of Conservation & Recreation (DCR) manages the 23-acre reservation surrounding the bridge. The reservation includes land on both the Newton and Needham sides of the river. MWRA removed old construction fencing around the base on the Newton Upper Falls side that was left over from a bridge maintenance project.

DCR and the Friends of Hemlock Gorge organization will take responsibility for the Echo Platformís long-term maintenance. The reservation is open dawn to dusk. Parking at the reservation is limited, with a small lot on the Newton side at the base of Ellis Street off Route 9 or on the Needham side off Hamilton Place. Portions of Wellesley, Needham, and Newton are part of the Hemlock Gorge Reservation.

The 500 foot long arched bridge was built in 1877 and still stands as an outstanding and beautiful example of nineteenth-century engineering skill. For almost 75 years, from 1877 to the early 1950s, Echo Bridge carried clean drinking water into the Boston area. On April 9, 1980 it was accepted by into the National Register of Historic Places. Even though it is not actively used, The Sudbury Aqueduct remains a backup water transmission route for the metropolitan area. Source water travels from the Sudbury Reservoir in Southborough and Framingham to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir region in Boston.

More information on the reservation and Echo Bridge can be found on the Friends of Hemlock Gorge website at

More Echo Bridge Photos
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Historic Echo Bridge 1920 Echo Bridge - new platform Echo Bridge - new stair Echo Bridge - top