Monday, July 12, 2010

Spicket River Kayak Trip- Methuen MA to Salem NH

View Spicket in a larger map

The Spicket River is a tributary of the Merrimack River that, according to Wikipedia, starts at Island Pond in Derry NH and empties into the Merrimack River in Lawrence MA.  I tried to use google maps to follow the river to its source but I seem to lose it somewhere around the Rockingham Mall in Salem.

I have tried twice to paddle upstream in the Merrimack River from Methuen to the mouth of the Spicket River but have yet to make it.  My first attempt was one of my first paddling trips and I simply tired out before I got there.  My second attempt I made it a little further but this time was turned away by wind from incoming thunderstorms.  I realize that even if I do make it to the mouth of the Spicket I may not get very far as there are a series of dams upstream that severely restrict the flow of the river and require portaging.  But I will take another shot at it soon.

 In the meantime I have been asking around about putting in upstream of the dams in hopes of exploring the area.  I got in touch with Joyce Godsey, President of the Methuen Rail Trail Alliance who offered to take me on a tour of the area.  I had the pleasure of getting out in the water with Joyce a couple weeks ago for an early morning tour.  Joyce and her group are doing a great job of cleaning up the area and attracting some interest.  Unfortunately I did not bring my camera for the tour so I headed out this weekend in the late afternoon and the wildlife was still very active.

Put in on Pine St
Old Rail Trestle

We put in behind an industrial building at the end of Pine Street in Methuen.  The launch site is a little rocky but fine for a kayaker or a canoe.  The paddle was upstream but there was no current to speak of on the Spicket so it was a very easy paddle.  From the put in heed upstream to the left and you will pass under a low rail bridge, it is a little tight but you can pass through on the left or right side.  The initial part of this trip requires navigating some very sharp turns along a fairly narrow portion of the river.  This area is also the beginning on the Nevins Bird Sanctuary.  You will see various species of birds in this area along with beavers and other small rodents.  After paddling for about a half mile you will pass under Route 213 twice and the river will curve to the left and then straighten out.  At the beginning of this straightaway if you look to the right there is a heron rookery where you will see at least a half-dozen nesting herons.

First Heron Sighting

Heron Rookery

What is he doing here?

This unnaturally straight part of the river runs alongside route 93 for a few miles which is a harsh reminder that you are not too far from civilization.  I believe the straightness of this part of the river is due to a retrenching when route 93 was built.  Kind of sad actually.  At the beginning of the straight portion there is a sandbar on the right hand side so you will need to stay to the left.  We followed this straight section for about a mile into Salem NH where we came upon a large tree across the river that would have required portaging.  At this point is was getting pretty warm out so we turned around and headed back.  On my second trip out I investigated the tree blocking the river a little closer.  I actually think if I had tried hard enough I could have gotten by without portaging, but there was a pretty large debris field behind the tree with some fairly stagnant smelly water that scared me off.  The total length of this trip was 4 miles round trip.  There is a little pollution in the river that left a ring of muck around the waterline of my kayak and required some scrubbing with soap and water.  But I am told that the river is slowly getting cleaner with wildlife returning in the last couple decades so it can't be too bad.  Hopefully with a little more interest cleanup will continue and the Spicket River will be discovered be more paddlers.

Straight Portion of the River

End of the Line

This is not the most challenging kayak trip i have taken, the highlight of this trip is really the wildlife.  It is not often that you can sneak up on a Great Blue Heron fishing for lunch.  A large portion of the river is pretty well shaded so you won't be sitting directly in the sun for most of the trip, which is nice.  If you want to spend a couple hours relaxing in the water checking out the wildlife this is a trip for you.