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.

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