Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Little Rock Gardening at Fort Weatherill - June 16, 2018

West Cove at Fort Wetherill
I have often thought it was silly that I live a half-hour from the ocean, but I usually drive two or three hours to paddle at some far off river. Don’t get me wrong; I love river paddling (especially whitewater), but it seems like I am missing out on some great paddling close to home. 

With that in mind, I spoke to Tony at one of our planning meetings about going out with him on one of the RICKA Sea Kayak trips in his tandem Tsunami sea kayak. I love tandem canoeing, so why would tandem kayaking be any different. I knew I wanted to do something with a little action, so we decided to do the trip at Fort Wetherill on the rocky Jamestown coast.

Heading out
Fort Wetherill is a former coastal defense battery and training camp located on 100-foot high granite cliffs across the East Passage from Newport and Fort Adams State Park. Shortly after the Revolutionary War, Fort Dumpling was built on this site to protect this strategic access to Newport and Narragansett Bay. The site would eventually become Fort Wetherill - part of an extensive coastal defense battery that included Camp Cronin on Point Judith, Fort Greble on Dutch Island, Fort Hamilton on Rose Island, and Fort Adams in Newport that protected Narragansett Bay during World War II.

I met Tony early so we could get our gear together and set up the boat. Fort Wetherill is a popular spot for scuba diving and fishing, and the divers and fisherman were out early as well. Eventually the rest of our crew arrived – 14 paddlers in 13 boats. The day was beautiful with sunny skies and light winds. We put in just after high tide with easy 1 to 2 foot waves.

Around the rocks
The trip was led by the two Tims (Tim 1 and Tim 3), and was intended to be an introductory rock gardening trip to give newer paddlers experience around rocks in mild conditions. I strapped on my helmet and we headed out.

Rock gardening is the “whitewater” paddling of the sea kayak world. In rock gardening, you ride ocean swells over and around the rocky coast. Timing is everything as you ride the swells over rocks, and efficient paddling helps to keep you from getting bashed by waves. 

Over the waves
We paddled out of West Cove and headed west under the huge granite cliffs. The Tims provided coaching as we paddled in and around the rocks, and practiced running pour-overs. When we weren’t playing, it was great just to sit back and enjoy the scenery. We paddled around Southwest Point and into Mackerel Cove for lunch.

After lunch, we headed back to West Cove. Tony and I tried to run a pour-over at the end of Southwest Point against the current. Unfortunately, our timing was slightly off, and the water receded before we could get our 20-foot boat completely over the rock. We were stuck high and dry, and there was nothing to do but wait for the next wave.

Running the pour-over
That wave came, and pushed us back into a hole with a cross current that made it difficult to paddle back up and out through the shoot.  We got bounced around by a couple of waves, but eventually got ourselves lined up and powered out and over the rock – it was cool.

We paddled in and around the rocks and enjoyed the views on the paddle back to Fort Wetherill. Hopefully Tony will paddle with me again, or I may need to find myself a sea kayak.

Bill enjoys the view

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Back to River Bend Farm - June 12, 2018

We had a good turn out for the Blackstone Valley Paddle Club trip at River Bend Farm.  We had 13 boats on the canal/river loop, and probably the same on Rice City Pond.  The river was 3 feet, and everyone seemed to be bottoming out. 

My Pictures
Trip Description from BRVNHC 
Northbridge Gage

Sunday, June 10, 2018

River Bend Farm - June 9, 2018

Rice City Pond
I’m leading the Blackstone Valley Paddle Club trip at River Bend Farm this week, so I went up to scout it out. The river was just over 3’ on the Northbridge gage.

I paddled up into Rice City Pond as far as Lookout Rock. It was low, but OK if you stayed in the main channels. The river was low, but with good current, including the usual tricky side currents. The water in the canal was covered with pollen, but as you move upstream it clears up. No greed duckweed yet.

I brought my camera, but I forgot to put the memory card in. Guess how many pictures my camera will hold without the memory card - just two, so here they are.

Stone Arch Bridge at Hartford Avenue

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Upper Wood River - June 3, 2018

We had a fun trip today with RICKA on the Upper Wood River.  We put in on Rt. 165 (Ten Rod Road) in Exeter and padded 7.5 miles to Wyoming Pond in Richmond, with a break for lunch at Barberville. The river was low but runnable - 100 cfs, 2.5 feet on the Hope Valley gage and 75 cfs, 3 ft. on the Arcadia gage. I did portage left and paddle the short rapid below the Barberville Dam, but it was boney. 


Monday, May 28, 2018

River Church - Tville - May 27, 2018

Horseshoe Ledge
As I drove up Blue Hill Avenue in Bloomfield I noticed a bunch of big mega-churches. It was Sunday morning so the parking lots were full. On this Sunday I was glad to be going to a different church - River Church.

It has been almost a year since I took the drive out to Tariffville to run the “Tville” section of the Farmington River. The Farmington arises near Otis, MA and flows generally south and east for 47 miles through Connecticut until it flows into the Connecticut River near Windsor, CT. There are several sections of the Farmington that are popular for whitewater boating – New Boston (class III/IV), Riverton/Satan’s Kingdom (class I/II), Crystal (class II), and of course “Tville” or the Tariffville Gorge (class (II/III).  

Approaching the Playhole
Tville is one of the best-known whitewater runs in southern New England. It is the site of an annual spring slalom race, and has hosted national and Olympic trials.  The run itself is short - just 1.5 miles - but the water runs most of the year, and there are play spots for paddlers of all skill levels.  At yesterday’s level (2 feet, 800 cfs. on the Tariffville gage) it is a class II/III run. 

I met up with the group from the CT/AMC at Tariffville Park to run the shuttle down to the take-out on Tunxis Road. It’s been a while since I have run it at this level. Cathy’s Wave and the Horsehoe Ledge were at a nice level. As you enter the gorge the intensity picks up a bit with the Bridge Abutment Rapid (ran right) and the Playhole (ran left).  The Playhole was at nice level, but I was still too chicken to try.

Below the Playhole are a couple of small ledges that I ran to the left.  Below that are the Inquisition Ledges. I ran the first to the right (avoiding the big hole in the center).  From there, I tried to ferry left to run the second drop, but got swept downstream early.  Fortunately I still made it through the shoot. After my second attempt surfing at Typewriter I got swept downstream. 

Below Typewriter

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Canal/River Loop - Lonsdale to Ashton - May 26, 2018

It was such a nice day that I decided to skip the gym and go paddling. I did the canal/river loop from Lonsdale to Ashton. There were a lot of blow-downs in the canal, but I only had to get out of the boat for one. The river was at a nice level – 2 feet, 500 cfs on the Woonsocket gage. I took a lot of video, but unfortunately I deleted it before down loading it to the computer. Here is all I ended up with.  

Monday, May 21, 2018

Alton to Bradford - May 20, 2018

Running the Broken Dam
The forecast was mixed with rain and thunderstorms early and late, but we were able to catch the window in the middle to run the Wood/Pawcatuck from Alton to Bradford. The river was at a nice level -3 feet, 250 cfs on the Wood River Junction gage.  

Due to work on the bridge below the dam, we had to lift our boats over construction barriers to get the put-in.  Once there, the river was flowing nice. We had an easy run through the broken dam at Burdickville, stopped for lunch and a fire at Burlingame Canoe Campsites (thanks Jim), and did a first run through the new dam at Bradford.

Lunch at Burlingame
I did a little research on the old Bradford Dam. The original dam was a stone and timber structure built between sometime 1819 and 1846 to divert water to the Bradford textile mills. Built on top of a natural falls, the 6-foot dam spanned the entire width of the river.  

Since removing the dam would drop the water level upstream by about 5 feet and negatively impact wetlands, the decision was made to replace the existing dam with the new rock ramp structure. This ramp is made up of 6 gradually ascending stone weirs, which serve like terraced steps. Pools between the steps give fish a place to rest on their way upstream. Gaps in the weirs create channels for water to flow and fish to swim, including the main current down the middle that forms a nice channel for paddlers.

New fish weirs at Bradford
The Bradford Dam is just one of a series of restoration projects on the Pawcatuck River. In 2010, the Lower Shannock Falls Dam was removed and replaced with a short rapid that allows fish to swim upstream, and paddlers to run downstream. In 2013, a rock ramp was built on the downstream side old Kenyon Dam. In 2016, the White Rock Dam in Westerly was removed. Combined with fish ladders at Potter Hill and Upper Shannock Falls, the removal or modification of these dams has opened up 31 miles of the Pawcatuck River to migratory fish.  

Hopefully the water will be at a good level when we do our Bradford to Potter Hill trip on August 18th.  It will be nice to run down the weirs rather than portage like we had to do with the old dam.  

The crew at the put-in