I attended another trip today with the MRWC. This trip was on my home turf as it would take us right past my usual put-in in Methuen. I have paddled this section of the river many times but this was my first time using the put in and take out that we used for this trip.
|Boat Launch at Pemberton Park, Lawrence MA|
|Merrimack River just below the Great Stone Dam Lawremce MA|
We started the trip at the boat launch Pemberton Park in Lawrence. This launch is just below the Great Stone Dam. The ramp itself is very nice and is in pretty good shape. There is a small beach area at the bottom of the ramp that was great for launching kayaks. The park leading to the ramp was another story, There were numerous homeless people living in the park and what appeared to be other illicit activity going on. Nobody bothered us but I would not be really comfortable leaving my car there for an extended period of time.
After shuttling our cars to the takeout we were underway. The first mile and a half of this trip takes you through downtown Lawrence. There are large mills on both sides of the river in this section. This section is also where the Spicket River empties into the Merrimack on river left and the Shawsheen on River right, At about this one and a half mile mark we passed under route 495. Once under this bridge the banks of the river appear much more rural with mostly wooded banks for the next 6 or so miles. The river is pretty wide but the current does give you a nice little push. Currently though the river is very low. Lower than I have seen it in some time, so the current was not helping too much. The low level also reveals the rocky bottom. There are several rock gardens to navigate as most of us found as we slid over or just heard the thud of the rocks hitting out boats. There is one short section of quick water once past the island at the 6 mile point but because of the low water level it wasn't as quick as it is at other times of the year.
The highlight of this trip had to be our bald eagle sightings. I have paddled this section of the river at least a half-dozen times over the past couple years and I have never seen an eagle. I have always wanted to and I was told they are out there but they have always eluded me....until this trip. We saw four eagles and I couldn't have been more excited. The first two were pointed out to be by another paddler. They were soaring very high above us and if someone had not said something I probably would have just though they were hawks. But as I looked closer I could definitely see the telltale white tail and head. I snapped a picture but they were so high they just look like a dot unless you zoom way in on the picture. See above. I would have been satisfied with the first sighting but a few miles downstream another eagle flew over our heads at treetop height. If that weren't enough another mile downstream we watched an immature eagle fly away with a large fish. I was unable to get a picture of the second two eagles as I was just enjoying watching them. This would have been a perfect time to have my DSLR camera with me but I just can't bring myself to drag $800 worth of camera and lens near the water. Might just have to invest in some type of waterproof enclosure so I can get some pictures of these majestic birds.
After our excitement with the eagles we paddled our final couple miles through downtown Haverhill. This final leg was made a bit harder as we were working against the tide and were baking in 90 degree sun. But we all made it to our takeout at the public ramp next to the Crescent Yacht Club on Ferry Street in Bradford. As I mentioned earlier this was my first time using this boat ramp. There were a few powerboats putting in here bit there seemed to be plenty of parking. Nice to know this is an option if I don't feel like going the extra couple miles to the car top launch at Riverside park on my next trip.
|Publir ramp next to Crescent Yacht Club, Bradford MA|
Total miles of this trip was just over 10 miles and it took us about 3 hours excluding our stop for lunch. At higher water this past June I paddled this section of river in under 2 hours so we were a bit slower than normal. Another great day on the water and it was amazing to finally see some bald eagles practically in my back yard.