Sunday, July 25, 2010

Blackstone Gorge and the Branch River – July 24th

After spending last weekend up on the Deerfield helping out with the RICKA Whitewater School, I was back on the Blackstone River yesterday checking out another section I hadn't paddled before – Blackstone Gorge to the Canal Street Bridge. It’s a short section, but actually quite pretty.

Upstream, the Blackstone Gorge is one of the few sections of the Blackstone River that was untouched by 19th century industrial development. Granite cliffs and hemlock trees tower over the river. Its short – not even a mile, but in higher water it contains several class III/IV rapids. We frequently paddle the flatwater section above the gorge.

Downstream the river can be accessed from Cold Spring Park in Woonsocket. This section is mostly flatwater, but there’s a short rocky stretch above the St. Paul Street Bridge which is good for poling.

I paddled round trip from the conservation land behind the High Rock Condominiums. Its marked private – for residents only, but no one bothered me. The river was low – 7ft, 135 cfs on the Route 122 Bridge gage in Uxbridge. It was a perfect level for poling - too bad I brought my flatwater boat.

I paddled downstream past Tupper Park and the Powerhouse for the old Lonsdale mill before reaching the Canal Street Bridge and the dam for the old Waterford Mill Village.

Upstream where the Branch River joins the Blackstone River, I saw a cormorant up on a log drying his wings. I hoped to be able to paddle up the Branch River as far as Great Road (Route 146A) in North Smithfield, but the Branch was even lower than the Blackstone - 2ft, 35 cfs. on the Forestdale gauge. I waded upstream about a mile before a barking dog chased me off. It’s a beautiful stretch of river that I would like to do when there is more water. 

I paddled upstream and did a little surrfing at the last drop in the Gorge before heading home.

Blackstone Gorge and the Branch River from Erik Eckilson on Vimeo.

This was my first time using my new Pentax Option W80. I don’t think that the video came out as well as with my old camera, but maybe it was just the day.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

RICKA Whitewater School – July 17th and 18th

I spent the weekend up on the Deerfield River helping out with the RICKA Whitewater School. We had a small group this year – just 3 boats, all kayaks. We started day one on flatwater up at the Sherman Reservoir, and then spent the afternoon working on ferries and eddy turns at the Zoar Picnic Area. Day two started in the pool below the Zoar Gap with more work on ferries and eddy turns, and then we ran the lower section from the Zoar Picnic Area to Shunpike. Everyone did great.

Unfortunately, I lost my camera sometime during lunch on the second day. It must have fallen from my PFD pocket. Fortunately, Hector got a few pictures which he sent to me. I have ordered a new camera - a Pentax Optio W80.

Hectors pictures
Andy's Pictures

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What happened to the rain?

For the past couple of days, the local whitewater message boards have been buzzing at the prospect of heavy rains and flash floods - no such luck. Last summer we had some great whitewater paddling in June and July. The Deerfield was at 2,400 cfs for the RICKA Whitewater School last June – no running Zoar Gap that weekend. Last July, we paddled the  Branch River at 540 cfs (its at 61 cfs today) and the Crystal section of the Farmington at 1,800 cfs (its at 291 cfs today). We will be doing the RICKA Whitewater School again this weekend - I think the water will be at a more reasonable level.

We did get a little rain for our Tuesday night paddle with the Blackstone Valley Paddle Club at the Lacky Dam. A few paddlers opted out, but we still ended up with 15 to 20 boats. Paddling is a water sport right?

Cheryl's pictures from Lacky Dam

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Valley Falls to Pawtucket – July 10th

I was back on the Blackstone River today paddling a section that I had never done before - Valley Falls to Pawtucket.

I parked off High Street in Central Falls in the parking lot next to the walking track. There is a path there that takes you over the old mill trench and down to the river. The river was low just below the dam, but was fine otherwise. With a lot more water, this might be a good place to bring my whitewater boat.  (There is a path by the mill trench on the Central Falls side that goes back up toward the dam which would make doing loops easier.)

Its only about a mile down to the Elizabeth Webbing Dam. I was able to portage around the dam on the right through the parking lot for an old mill that has been converted into condominiums. Its another mile down to the old Slater Mill. The scenery is OK if you like old mills. I did see lots of different birds including an Osprey and what looked like a Cormorant.

I got home around 11:30, and the rain and thunderstorms rolled in around 1:30.  Unfortunately, we still need more rain.

Valley Falls to Pawtucket from Erik Eckilson on Vimeo.

Valley Falls from
Samuel Slater from

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lonsdale Marsh - July 6th

Steamy – that’s probably the best way to describe the weather yesterday, but we still had around 30 boats at a Blackstone Valley Paddle Club Trip to Valley Falls. We put in at the Valley Falls Landing and paddled up through the Lonsdale Marsh to the Pratt Dam. The water level was low, and the temperature was hot, but several boaters still made it all the way up to the dam - with only one swim along the way. We paddled back down into the marsh just as the sun began to set - another nice night.

Valley Falls from
Trip description from the BVNHC
My Pictures

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Wood/Pawcatuck - July 3rd

Had a good time yesterday on the Wood/Pawcatuck Rivers. We had 10 boats – 5 canoes (1 tandem) and 5 kayaks. Trip was about 11 miles with 2 dams to portage (Woodville and Alton) and a broken dam that we ran (Burdickville).

We put in on the Wood River around 10:30 from the Switch Street (Hope Valley) Landing. In this section, the Wood River is… well… wooded. The river got shallow in spots, but there was always plenty of water (50 cfs, 2 ft. on the Hope Valley gage).

The river opened up as we approached the deadwater from the Woodville dam. I was looking for the Mountain Laurel blooms which supposedly line these banks, but we must have missed them. I did see plenty of purple pickerel weed and white water lilies.

We portage the Woodville dam and continued downstream. There is a short wooded section just below the dam, but then you enter a large marsh which is the deadwater for the Alton Dam. Wild roses lined the river in this area. We stopped for lunch at the rope swing before continuing down to the dam.

Beyond the Alton Dam, there is another short wooded area before the Wood River joins the Charles River to form the Pawcatuck. From here, the Pawcatuck is wider and deeper. After a couple of mile of easy paddling we approached the broken dam at Burdickville.  We ran the chute on the right without incident and continued downstream, arriving at the Bradford Landing around 3:30.

My Pictures
Mike V's Pictures

Scouting the Upper Wood River - July 3rd

I was a little early heading down to yesterday’s trip on the Wood/Pawcatuck Rivers, so I decided to check out the put in for the upper Wood River off Route 165 in the Arcadia Management Area. I definitely want to do this section of the Wood River sometime soon.

My Pictures