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Nature calls at Thoreau’s Walden Pond – a little too often, scientists say

Walden Pond, shown in 2003, has a big problem with swimmers who urinate in the pond, fouling the water and damaging the famed pond’s ecosystem, according a new scientific report. Naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau made the New Hampshire pond famous in his book, “Walden; or, Life in the Woods.”
Walden Pond, shown in 2003, has a big problem with swimmers who urinate in the pond, fouling the water and damaging the famed pond’s ecosystem, according a new scientific report. Naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau made the New Hampshire pond famous in his book, “Walden; or, Life in the Woods.” The Associated Press file

Naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau famously realized that “heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads” at Walden Pond, but scientists analyzing the Massachusetts waterway have made a far less pleasant discovery.

Generations of swimmers at the pond have fouled the water with urine, covering the once-pristine lake that inspired Thoreau’s “Walden; or, Life in the Woods” with algae and endangering the fish population, according to a new scientific study.

Researchers found a surge in nitrogen and phosphorous, which are found in human waste, in the pond. Those chemicals feed the algae, which mars the water and blocks the rays of the sun, also needed by fish to survive. The study notes that climate change could further hinder efforts to restore Walden Pond to its former purity.

Starting in 1845, Thoreau spent a little over two years in a cabin on Walden Pond near Concord, Mass., west of Boston, according to The Walden Project. He published “Walden; or, Life in the Woods” in 1854 recounting his stay at the lake, compressed in the book into a single year, and his philosophical contemplations about simplicity, life and the value of wilderness.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived,” Thoreau wrote.

Following publication of his book, the picturesque pond became a tourist mecca. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1962, reported NBC News.

Swimming, walking and hiking are some of the activities offered at Walden Pond, according to Massachusetts State Parks.

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