What happened to Orange County's Wishing Falls during this summer's floods
If you drive on the dirt road between Williamstown and Chelsea, you’ll pass some hand painted signs that say, “Wishing Falls. Make a wish, 25 cents.”
For decades, folks have stopped, tossed a quarter in and hoped for their heart’s desire.
But like so many rivers this summer, the small waterway that runs under the road and creates the local attraction flooded during the heavy rains in July, washing out the Wishing Falls and several sections of road.
The signs for the Wishing Falls were put up by a man named George Matheson, who lives in a little green house nearby. I stopped by recently to visit with him.
George is 71, with white hair and bright blue eyes. His neighbors know him as “Old George” and he lives here with a cat he calls “Little George,” even though I have never seen a bigger cat in my whole entire life.
George says the Wishing Falls came into being in 1980. He was clearing out a culvert and discovered that the more he cleared, the more the water tumbled. Then he saw a program on TV about wishing wells.
“So I thought, ‘Why not? I’ll call them Wishing Falls. Put a sign up there,’” he recalls.
Over the past four decades, the Wishing Falls have become a bit of a local landmark. The signs make people smile. It’s a nice spot to stop with kids if you’re driving by.
But when July’s heavy rains came, they washed out the road, stranded the two Georges and did a number on the Falls.
George says a beaver dam upstream couldn’t contain all the water.
“It burst at 3 o'clock in the morning, woke me up. I could see it was like a river going by in the road.”
The swollen river rushed by on one side of the little green house, and on the other side, the road became a river itself.
The house was spared, but the floodwaters made the road impassable. George was trapped for a few days, and it was weeks before cars could get through.
“[It] was pretty scary for a while! Thought I was going to have to change my britches!” George says, laughing. “But we survived, somehow.”
As for the Wishing Falls, they’re OK. The flooding made them wider and moved boulders from one place to another. George is waiting for the water to go down some more before trying to clean things up.
We walk up the road to go see them.
“You can hear the brook pretty good,” says George.
“So these are the Wishing Falls right here?” I ask.
“Yup, right there.”
“Do wishes actually come true here?”
“Oh sure, a lot of people say that wishes come true. That’s why they keep coming back,” George says proudly.
“I brought a quarter with me — should I make a wish?”
I chuck my quarter in the water — and I’m pretty sure that for my wish to come true, I’m not supposed to tell anyone what it was. But it might have had something to do with floods.
“I hope your wish comes true!” George says with a laugh.
“Me too,” I say.
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