When the Passaic River runs low, a driver crossing the Fair Lawn Avenue Bridge (which connects Fair Lawn to Paterson) might be able to make out a long, V-shaped wall of boulders and cobblestones peeking out above the current. What the low waters unveil is a 100-yard wide dam spanning the width of the Passaic. It is historical evidence of an ancient, Native American fishing weir. Before European colonization, indigenous people all over the country built such V-shaped dams as a way to trap and catch migrating fish. While the Lenape Nation may have used this weir two or three centuries ago, it was more likely constructed and used thousands of years ago.
In 1924, Paterson historian Albert Heusser found an arrowhead and two knife fragments on the Fair Lawn side of the weir. Upon examination, Heusser found the arrowhead’s straight edges, stem and base were indicative of the Susquehanna style arrows that were used widely from the late Archaic and early Woodland periods (about 3,000 BC to 200 AD). Whatever the exact age of the weir is, it is certain that for a long time it was a passive collector of striped bass, American eels and shad. More recently, though, it has turned into a collector of garbage that has been dumped into the river.
Thankfully, the weir is now much more pristine then it was prior to 1998, when the PVSC River Restoration Department was formed. Several times a year, the River Restoration Department descends on the weir and pulls out all sorts of trash. Sadly, this includes numerous illegally dumped tires. Indeed, PVSC pulls out hundreds of tires with each cleaning.
Below are pictures from a recent cleanup.