Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kayak 3 Rivers in 5 Miles - Merrimack, Spicket and Shawsheen

View Shawsheen and Spicket Rivers in a larger map

At the end of last season I attempted to paddle upstream on the Merrimack River to the mouths of the Spicket and Shawsheen Rivers.  They are on opposite sides of the river about 2 miles upstream from where I put in at Schruender Park in Methuen.  On my last attempt the water level was too low so I was only able to look from a distance at these rivers.  Over the last couple weeks we have gotten quite a bit of rain which seems to have replenished the river levels quite a bit.  So I decided this past Sunday to make another attempt to paddle upstream on the Shawsheen and Spicket rivers.

I strapped my kayak to my cart nice and early and hiked down the street to my put in at Schruender Park in Methuen.   As expected the water levels were higher that they were a few weeks ago and after just a few minutes of paddling against the current I could feel it in my arms.  But I pushed through it and continued about 2 miles upstream to the mouth of the Spicket River.  I was glad to see that there was indeed enough water flowing so I would be able to paddle upstream for at least a short distance.  I was pretty disturbed by the amount of trash deposited along the banks, tires, auto parts, appliances, pretty sad actually.   
Mouth of the Spicket River
After paddling about 200 yards upstream I encountered a sand bar that I needed to portage over and another 100 yards or so I encountered another shallow portion that I considered portaging over as well but looking upstream it looked like I would be doing more portaging than paddling so I decided to turn around , head back downstream and see what the Shawsheen River had to offer.  There were a couple interesting features in this section of the Spicket river.  First being the discharge waterfall of the lawrence canal.  The seconsd was the very large pipe that ran under the Canal Street bridge.  Not sure wat that pipe carries or once carried but it was huge.  I was a bit disappointed that I was only able to paddle about 300 yards upstream but I was glad to have at least done that.

Lawrence Canal discharge

Upstream toward Canal Street Bridge
Under the Canal Street Bridge looking downstream
The mouth of the Shawsheen river is interesting in that in order to get through it you need to paddle through a 200 yard tunnel.  There are actually three tunnels side by side so you have a choice of which one to paddle through.  I sat in front of them for a few minutes contemplating if I really wanted to paddle through and if so which one.  Finally I decided to just pick the one in the middle and went for it.  I have to say it was pretty damn creepy.  You at least have the light at the other end of the tunnel to guide you but when you get to the 100 yard mark it is very dark.  At one point my paddle caught on something which felt like something pulling on, this really freaked me out.  Needless to say I picked up the pace and eventually made it to the other end and daylight.
Tunnels at the mouth of the Shawsheen River
Daylight!!!! Other side of the tunnel
After paddling through the tunnel I was able to paddle another 250 or so yards until I encountered some rocks and quick water just under the Haverhill commuter rail bridge.  Not feeling much in the mood for any more portaging I turned around headed back downstream through the same middle tunnel I came through and headed for home.  The trip back through the tunnel was uneventful but no less creepy.
End of the line on the Shawsheen River
On the way home I decided to hug the shoreline a bit in hopes of another bald eagle sighting, I was not to be disappointed.  About a mile downstream a beautiful mature bald eagle took off from a branch above my head.  I did not have my camera ready but I watched as he soared a few hundred yards downstream and flew into the trees.  So I readied my camera and continued hugging the shore paddling downstream just in case he decided to surprise me again.  Just as I was thinking I missed him he popped out just above my head again but I had my camera ready this time.  Not a great shot but if you click on the picture below you can see the white on his tail.

Total mileage of this trip was about 5 miles and I was on the water for just under 2 hours.  I was really hoping to be able to paddle further upstream on the Spicket and Shawsheen Rivers but I am beginning to think it may only be possible in the early Spring.  Overall a nice little trip the highlight being my second trip of the year seeing a bald eagle.