Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nashua River - Pepperell / Groton MA

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I participated in another one of the Merrimack River Watershed Council's paddling trips this past weekend.  This trip was   my first time on the Nashua River.  I made myself a goal over the winter to paddle some new rivers this season and this was my third new river this year. 

The section of the river that we paddled is called Pepperell Pond.  There is a dam further upstream which backs the river up into a large pond-like area with lots of islands and little culverts to explore.  Lots of wildlife to see on the Nashua river and we were lucky to have a couple members of the Brookline Bird Club on our trip to point out all of the different species.

Our put in was at 120 River road in Pepperell MA.  A bit of a steep walk down to the water but everyone stayed dry so  no issues there.  We started our paddle upstream but there was no discernible current in this section of the river.  I am used to paddling more narrow rivers with a stronger current so it was nice to paddle on a larger body of water for a change.  Unfortunately we were reminded immediately of one of the drawbacks of paddling on large open areas; wind.  We paddled into a pretty stiff breeze for the first half mile or so, eventually it did die down a bit as we entered more sheltered sections of the river.

I think we paddles at least two miles stopping here and there to check out the wildlife.  We found a nice spot to stop for lunch at our turnaround point.  I believe we were in the J. Harry Rich State Forest.  There was a nice network of trails running along the river, a perfect spot for a break.

After lunch we meandered back pretty much the same way we came.  One interesting note we must have seen at least 3 pairs of swans during our trip.  I was able to get close enough to snap a pic of the below nesting pair.  The Nashua River also appears to  a fairly popular river for boating, we saw quite a bit of others in powerboats, canoes and kayaks.  There was even saw a group in an inflatable raft.

Our total trip was approximately 5 miles and we were out on the water for about 3 hours.  The MRWC is running a bunch more trips on the Nashua River throughout the season so I am hoping to explore more of the river as the season progresses.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Squannacook River - West Groton MA

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I had an opportunity to explore a short section of the Squannacook River this weekend.  This section of the river is very remote and removed from civilization, the only sounds you hear while paddling are the birds chirping.

The Squannacook River is a tributary of the Nashua River that winds approximately 16 miles through the towns of Townsend, Shirley, Groton and Ayer.  There are 5 dams on the river--3 in Townsend and 2 in West Groton.  Our put in was just above one of the dams at the West Groton Water Supply District Building at 305 Townsend Rd, West Groton MA.  This is a very convenient put in with lots of parking and a short walk to the water.

This section above the dam is called the Squannacook River reservoir and is a fairly large pond like section of the river.  There is a large manufacturing facility across the reservoir but it disappeared quickly as we made our way upstream.  As you paddle through the reservoir the river narrows down to about 30 feet wide in most sections.  Most of this area is conservation land so there is nothing along the banks of the river through most of this section.

I was struck by the quiet while paddling and pleasantly surprised bu the cleanliness and lack of trash that I usually see along the rivers I normally paddle.  Either there is a group that works really hard to keep the river clean or it is sees few people that litter doesn't get deposited. 

There were quite a few downed trees along the river, most were fairly easy to navigate around.  We did encounter one tree ahout halfway through our paddle that we needed to portage around which was a bit hairy as the banks are fairly high and steep.  Luckily we make it through fairly dry.

There was a good bit of rain last week so there was a pretty brisk current that made our upstream paddle a bit strenuous.   It is still a bit early in the season as well so I am sure that normally the current isn't that strong.  We paddled upstream for a total of about two and a half miles where we encountered a nice section of rapids which was our turn around point.

For a minute I considered dragging my kayak upstream a bit and running through this section but as I got a closer look I decided it was probably not a good idea as I really didn't want to get wet.   I am told that this section was just a trickle a couple weeks ago but it was pretty impressive on this day.  There are apparently a few more similar sections of rapids further upstream.

We encountered plenty of wildlife along the river including turtles, Great Blue Heron, Red Winged Blackbirds and beaver.  We also passed a couple fly fishermen, one of whom pulled out a small trout as we passed.  We also saw another group of kayakers at the take out who I assume took a shorter version of the trip that we did. 

The total distance of this trip was approximately 5 miles and took us about three hours upstream and back.  One important note, if you plan to paddle this river bring plenty of bug spray.  We didn't notice the mosquitoes while we were paddling but once we stopped to check out the rapids we were swarmed.  Over all a really nice river that I hope to explore more of very soon.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Kayaking with a 3 year old

When I started kayaking last year the only thing that was bothering me about my time on the water is that I was spending time away from my family on the weekends. 

My wife and I started discussing how we could get her and my 3 year old daughter out there with me we considered briefly a tandem kayak and also a canoe but when I was able to pick up my Vapor 10xt for cheap that was the perfect solution.  I can paddle the Vapor with my daughter and my wife can use the Necky.

The Vapor XT has a huge cockpit so my daughter can sit in front of me with plenty of room so I don't have to worry about hitting her in the head with the paddle.

My biggest concern regarding kayaking with her was safety.  We got her an age appropriate PFD from LL Bean.  It has a grab loop at the back just in she falls in the water and a crotch strap so it isn't going anywhere.  I also picked up a bungee cord with carbiners at both ends so I can attach her pfd to mine in the event that we do capsize she won't get too far.

I also found a nice little padded kayak seat to make her ride a little more comfortable and to keep her off the wet floor of the kayak.  With all of our new gear we set off for the Spicket River this weekend for our first paddling trip.

I wanted to keep our first trip under two hours and keep in interesting for her so we paddled through the wildlife sanctuary where we would surely see plenty of birds and other critters.  Knowing your child's attention span is fairly important as you don't want to have to hear a child whine the whole way back to take-out.  Luckily my daughter is fairly easy going for a 3 year old so I knew a couple hour trip would not be a problem as long as we had plenty of snacks and water.

I am glad to say our first outing went flawlessly, it was a little cool and overcast but we saw plenty of nesting Great Blue Herons, Canadian Geese, Mallard Ducks, Red Winged Blackbirds and an otter or muskrat, not sure exactly what it was.

We are really looking forward to taking some longer trips later in the season when it gets warmer so we can  pack a lunch and have a nice family picnic.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Shawsheen River Kayak Trip - Tewksbury to Andover

Shawsheen River - Tewksbury to Andover in a larger map
I took my first official kayak trip this weekend on the Shawsheen River.  The trip was sponsored by the Merrimack River Watershed Council and the Shawsheen River Watershed Association.  There were about a dozen boaters on the trip, a few in canoes, the rest in kayaks.  I have been wanting to get on the Shawsheen river so when I saw the MRWC was running this trip I had to jump on it.

This was a one way trip downstream for a total distance of about 6 miles.  Our put in was on Main Street in Tewksbury (behind the Knights of Columbus) and our take out was at the Ballardvale Mill pond in Andover.  The trip took a little over two hours to complete.  These trips put on by the MRWC are great as they organize shuttles from put in to take out so you don't need to paddle back upstream or need someone you pick you up.

Put In - Main Street Tewksbury

The were thundershowers in the forecast for the day of our trip but they held off long enough to give us a picture perfect morning.  Shawsheen is a narrow river with a fairly strong current, not sure I would want to paddle upstream with the water levels where they are right now.  As the crow flies the distance between put in and take out is only about 3 and a half miles but the river twists and turns through meadows and woods extending the trip out to about 6 miles.

Heading out - Meadows Section

The first couple miles of the trip is mostly meadow and wetlands where there are lots of birds and other wildlife to view.  The next section of the trip takes you through a some wooded sections bordering some houses.  There are a couple areas in this section to be careful of.  Upon entering the first wooded portion of this trip there was a section of quickwater with a small dropoff.  Expect to get a bit wet.  There is also a section with some fairly large rocks that a couple of us (including myself) got hung up on.  Also there were at least three large trees across the river.  None of them required portage, just some limbo bending acrobatics to get under them.  One member of our party capsized and went for a swim when going under the lowest one, luckily she was wearing a wetsuit.
First downed tree

Lone paddler

The next couple sections alternate between meadows and woods for a couple miles until you pass under route 93.  There are a couple short alternating sections of woods and meadows and then you will pass under a couple rail bridges and then enter the flats section which is a big, wide backed up section called Mill Pond at the Ballardvale dam. 

1st Rail Bridge

2nd Rail Bridge
Andover St Bridge before takeout

The takeout is right before the Ballardvale dam at the intersection of River Street and Andover Street.  There is a private lot along the banks of the river with plenty of parking.  This trip was a great start to my kayaking season.   A pretty relaxing trip with a few sections to get your heart pumping.  If you have any interest in kayaking the Shawsheen I encourage you to visit the SRWA website.  They have lots of great information and maps of the river.