Sunday, October 25, 2020

Upper Blackstone – Worcester/Millbury – October 24, 2020

Visitor Center in Worcester
My talk on historical sites on the lower Blackstone River got me thinking about investigating sites on the upper Blackstone, so I was up with the sun loading my boat and bike for a trip to the Visitor Center of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor in Worcester. I wanted to find a put in near the headwaters of the Blackstone River.  

The Blackstone arises in Worcester at the confluence of the Middle River and Mill Brook near the Visitor Center. From there, it flows general south for 48-miles through Millbury, Sutton, Grafton, Northbridge, Uxbridge, Millville, and Blackstone in MA, and Woonsocket, Cumberland, Lincoln, Central Falls, and Pawtucket in RI. After the river flows over the Pawtucket Falls it becomes the Seekonk River.

Upstream from Riverlin Street, Millbury
The confluence Middle River and Mill Brook is visible from the Visitor Center, but waterfalls and high retaining walls make the river inaccessible. I hopped on my bike to see if I could find a put in a little further downstream. Unfortunately, fences along the bike path separate it from the river for most of its course. Where access is available it is far downstream making for a long portage. I rode all the way down to Millbury center with no luck finding an easy put in.  

With no luck at the headwaters, I decided to check out the put in at Riverlin Street in Millbury. Parking is easy and access to the river isn’t too bad near the bridge from the parking lot of the Goretti’s Supermarket across the street. I paddled upstream until the river became too shallow, and then I bushwhacked it up to the Millbury Rapid under the South Main Street Bridge. It looked runnable, so it must be huge with the river is up. I suppose you could try to put in at Elm Street/River Street near the Council on Aging if you wanted to run this rapid.

Millbury Rapid

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

RICKA October General Meeting Presentation - Historic Sites on the Blackstone River

Here is a recording of my Zoom presentation for RICKA's October General Meeting on historic sites along the Blackstone River in RI.

If you would like to skip to a particular section, here is the timing: 

History - 4:29 
Woonsocket Falls - 9:16 
Globe - 11:35 
Bernon - 13:26
Blackstone Canal - 15:07 
Providence Worcester Railroad - 16:55 
Hamlet - 21:19 
Manville - 23:15 
Albion - 31:26 
Ashton - 33:55 
Berkley - 35:47 
Lonsdale - 36:42 
Valley Falls - 39:14 
Central Falls - 41:16 

Thanks to Pat for recording and to everyone who joined.


Monday, October 19, 2020

Tully Lake - October 18, 2020

I 've been talking about doing a RICKA trip at Tully Lake for years, and I finally did it. We put in at the Tully River Canoe Launch, paddled up to Long Pond and a short ways up the Tully River before we hit the first beaver dam and turned around. We then headed back and stopped for lunch and a hike at Spirit Falls. The hike was longer and steeper than I remembered, so I'm glad Spirit Falls was flowing. We then paddled around Tully Lake before walking over to Doanes Falls.


The crew after a break for lunch

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Blackstone Gorge Foliage Tour - October 10, 2020

Rolling Dam
This was the last weekend for a scheduled Deerfield release at Fife, and I thought about heading up for a run. Then again, the shuttle is a pain, and it a long drive, so I opted for something local instead.  There are usually other released during the year.

There were lots of options for RICKA trips – Saturday at Blackstone Gorge with Gary, Sunday at Potter Hill with Sharon, and Monday at Pachaug Pond with Cheryl. Saturday looked like the nicest day, the Gorge is the closest to my house, and it fit best with my schedule, so the Blackstone Gorge it was.


Triad Bridge
I headed over early to hike down into the Gorge for some pictures.  There was plenty of color above the dam, but it will be at least another week for the color to peak in the Gorge itself. I snapped a few pictures at the Rolling Dam and at the Gorge Drop before heading back to the put in to meet the group.  

Paddling upstream from the dam is always a pleasant trip, and the colors were nice – not quite peak, but close.  We paddle through the Triad Bridge site, and took a break to check out the Millville Lock. From there it is a short paddle up to Millville where we turned around.  

Millville Lock


My Pictures - Blackstone Gorge Foliage

My Pictures - Rolling Dam to Millville

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Fall Camping in NH and ME - September 25-27, 2020

Heading out from Wilson's Mills
Work has been crazy – so busy that I didn’t even start to pack for this trip until 8:00 the night before. Fortunately my ”kit” as Jonathan calls it is pretty self-contained so I quickly got everything together – I hoped.

I missed my spring camping trip this year due to COVID-19, so I was bound and determined to do something in this fall. Conrad was interested as well, so along with Julie we decided to paddle the Magalloway River down to Lake Umbagog, a short section of the Rapid River, and then down the Androscoggin to Errol. The trip was dictated by the availability of campsites. The State of NH campsites are closed, but Conrad was able to book the Northern Waters sites.


Covered Bridge at Aziscoos Valley 
I left my house at 7:00 to get to the put in at Wilson’s Mill by noon. It was sunny and warm when I left my house, but the clouds rolled in as I passed through the Franconia Notch. The leaves also got more colorful as I headed north.  

I passed the Village of Stark on the Upper Ammonoosuc and the 13-Mile Woods on the Androscoggin. The last time I was here was 2009 with the RICKA crew, but I also did my first whitewater run with my father on the Androscoggin back in 1990. As I passed through Errol I checked out the Errol Rips before heading up Route 16 to the put in at Wilson’s Mills.  


Canoes at Diamond Peaks
Conrad and Julie arrived around 1:00, and we ran the shuttle down to the dam in Errol. On the way back we stopped at the Aziscoos Valley Camping Area to buy some firewood. It would be a pain lugging firewood around, but it would also be nice not to have to forage for wood each day.

We got on the water around 3:00 for the 6-mile trip down the Magalloway to the first campsite. The Magalloway River flows south out of Aziscohos Lake to the outlet of Umbagog Lake where it forms the Androscoggin River. The upper section is a well-known whitewater run, but the lower section from Wilson’s Mills down is flatwater. It was cloudy as we headed downstream, but the foliage was still beautiful.

Beautiful foliage
We paddled under a pretty covered bridge at Aziscoos Valley Camping Area, and before we knew it we were at our first campsite - Diamond Peaks. It was a grassy and well-maintained site that gave us plenty of room to spread out. We set up camp and got the fire going. It was nice not to have to go foraging for wood, because there didn’t seem to be a lot around. We cooked a late dinner and sat around the fire until 10:00 when we all turned in.

I woke up around 6:30 and got up to start the coffee. Conrad was up right behind me and got the fire going. Breakfast was the usual omelets with home fries.  We broke camp and were on the water by 10:00 for the 14-mile trip down to Cedar Stump on the Rapid River.


Sneak route to Lake Umbagog
It was a fast trip for the first 6-miles.  We took a break near Route 16 before paddling the last 2-miles down to Lake Umbagog. Big lakes tend to reveal themselves in the distance with a narrow foreground, a big void in the middle and a far-off background. That perspective then disappears, as you get closer. That’s the way it happened here.

After a mile or two of paddling the background disappeared but I came to a small channel with a view out to the lake – it looked promising, so that was the way I went. The lake opened up with beautiful views of the Presidential range to the east.


Mountain view from Lake Umbagog
Lake Umbagog is a pristine lake that forms the border between NH and ME. The lake is 11-miles long north to south, and about a mile wide east to west.  The lake is part of the Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge and Umbagog Lake State Park. There are 33 wilderness campsites on the lake operated by the State of NH, but unfortunately due to COVID-19 those sites were already closed for the season

We took a break at site 29, and planned out our route for the crossing. There were a pair of eagles sitting in a tree at a nearby island, but they were just out of camera range. We set out across the lake toward Pine Tree Point with a slight wind from the east and small wind blown waves. The views got better the further we got across the lake.


Breakfast fire at Cedar Stump
From Pine Tree Point it is about a 4-mile paddle across the top of Lake Umbagog and up a short section of the Rapid River. The Rapid River arises at Lower Richardson Lake and flows about 6-miles down to Lake Umbagog. Water from Rangeley Lake, Mooselookmeguntic Lake, and Upper and Lower Richardson Lakes all flows down the Rapid River into Lake Umbagog. The upper section of the Rapid River is another well-known whitewater run.  

We arrived at our Cedar Stump campsite to find a group of local fishermen using the site for lunch. No problem – there were plenty of other sites across the river. Like Diamond Peaks, Cedar Stump has numerous sites so we were able to spread out. Once again we set up camp, got the fire going and settled in for a nice evening around the fire. Dinner was salmon and grilled vegetables cooked on the fire. After the 14-mile day we didn’t even last until 10:00.  


S-Turn rapid on the Rapid River
I woke up the next morning at around 7:00 and got up to start the coffee. Once again, Conrad was right behind me to start the fire. Breakfast was bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches with extra bacon. We decided to pack up early and then take a hike up the Rapid River to see the rapids.

According to Conrad the river was around 500 cfs compared to 1,800 cfs on a normal release day. Even at this low level the rapids seemed to be flowing at what we decided would be a technical class III.  We made it up as far as S-Turn Rapid before we had to turn around. On returning to camp, we packed up our remaining gear and got on the water around noon. 


The crew at the take out
The wind was blowing from the south as we headed out so we knew it would be an interesting crossing of the lake. As we came around Pine Tree Point we could see whitecaps and 1-foot rollers out on the lake. We headed out into the waves and made it across without too much difficulty. Once again, we stopped at site 29 for a break, and once again there was an eagle in the tree at the nearby island. This time I decided to head over to get some pictures, and the eagle cooperated. 

We cut through a channel into the Magalloway River and down a short distance to the headwaters of the Androscoggin. The Androscogin River flows 178-miles south and east to join the Kennebec River at Merrymeeting Bay where its waters empty the Gulf of Maine on the Atlantic Ocean. From here, it was a short paddle down to the dam in Errol and the end of our trip.  



Sunday, September 13, 2020

Wickford Harbor and Backwaters - September 12, 2020

Smith's Castle
I knew I wanted to run a RICKA Flatwater trip in September, but I couldn’t decide where. This trip was originally planned for the Concord River and then moved to the Sudbury River. As the trip approached and travel restrictions for RI residents going into MA continued, I decided to move it one more time to Wickford. We would be paddling in the protected waters around Wickford Harbor and its three small coves - Mill Cove, Fishing Cove and Wickford Cove.  

Wickford is located on the West Passage of Narragansett Bay and was established in the early 17th century when Roger William purchased land from the Narragansett Indians and established a trading post. In 1637, Williams sold the land to Richard Smith who constructed a large fortified house on the site, giving the house its nickname the “Castle”. That house was burned during King Philip's War, and the structure on the site today was built in 1678.

Paul at the mouth of Mill Creek
We put-in at low tide at Wilson Park and paddled out into Mill Cove near Rabbit Island. After passing Smith’s Castle we headed up the long narrow channel that leads to Mill Creek. There were egrets in the trees and sea gulls and cormorants diving into the water. We even saw an osprey fly overhead carrying a fish. At the mouth of Mill Creek a cormorant dove into the water and then came up in full flight right in the middle of our group – pretty cool.

I did some research and learned that Mill Cove is one of several tidal estuaries in Narragansett Bay that are home pogies or menhadens.These fish spend their juvenile years in the less saline waters where freshwater rivers and streams like Mill Creek enter the bay. The birds where probably taking advantage of low tide for a mid-morning brunch.

Taking a break at Sauga Point
We paddled back down the channel into Mill Cove toward Cornelius Island and into Fishing Cove. We took a break at Sauga Point at the northern end of the Wickford Harbor Breakwater.  

There are two stone breakwaters that form the entrance to Wickford Harbor from Narragansett Bay – the north breakwater from Sauga Point is about 1,130 feet, and the south breakwater from Poplar Point is about 825 feet. A mile long channel through the Outer Harbor and into Mill Cove and Wickford Cove allows recreational and small commercial boats to access Wickford's marinas and boatyards.

Boston Post Road Bridge
We headed out from Sauga Point and waited for the boats to pass before crossing the boating channel at the opening in the breakwater. From there, we paddled down the Outer Harbor and into Wickford Cove at the Wickford Shipyard.    

In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, Wickford grew to become a major port and shipbuilding center. Today, much of that historic village can be seen as you paddle into Wickford Cove along Washington Street. We continued down the cove toward the Boston Neck Road (Route 1A) Bridge and past the Kayak Centre boat ramp before heading back to Wilson Park. Another great day, but aren’t they all!  


Monday, September 7, 2020