Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Concord and Sudbury Rivers

I've been saving this description of the Concord and Sudbury Rivers from Tommy T. 
The Concord and Sudbury Rivers have very slow current from Framingham to North Billerica. It's pretty easy to paddle both upstream and down. They tend to be open with lots of Buttonbush marsh.

Fairhaven Bay is a pretty pond in the Sudbury with wooded shores and the section just down stream of the Old North Bridge in Concord is wooded and more protected.

I've put on the Sudbury where it crosses Rt 20 in Wayland, at the Lincoln Canoe Launch on Rt 117 just above Fairhaven Bay and in on Lowell Road in Concord where the Sudbury and Assabet meet to form the Concord. If you put in there and head downstream on the Concord you will soon come to the Old North Bridge and then the wooded section I mentioned.

Further down the Concord there is a boat launch on Rt 225 in Bedford and a somewhat rougher launch at a small park on Rt 3A in Billerica. You may find fishermen in powerboats anywhere in there though I've never seen more than a few.

My favorite parts are between Rt 225 and Lowell Road on the Concord and Fairhaven Bay.

You might also consider the Assabet between Pine Street in West Concord and Lowell Road. That is more wooded and the trees would give you some protection from the rain. There are other nice paddles on the Assabet with somewhat trickier conditions or access. Give a yell if you want to hear about them.

One of these days, I'm going to get up there and do some paddling. I thought I'd be able to do it this month, but it hasn't worked out that way.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Big River – October 23rd

I was looking for some foliage this morning, and I wanted to paddle someplace different, so I grabbed Jim Cole’s book and headed down to the Big River in Coventry.  Chuck said it is as close as you can get to Maine scenery in Rhode Island, and he was right.

I put in at Zeke's Bridge (Harkney Hill Road) and paddle upstream into Reynolds Pond. The water was very low (2’ on the Harkney Hill Road gage), but recent frosts had killed back the weeds, and the foliage was spectacular – reds, yellows and oranges everywhere I looked. I paddled under Route 95 and up to Route 3 before I turned back. Well worth the trip.

Big River from Erik Eckilson on Vimeo.

My Pictures

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Contoocook River in NH

Tommy's pictures got me thinking that this is another NH river that I would like to paddle sometime. The "Took" is a tributary of the Merrimack River that has some nice flatwater and whitewater sections.

Tommy did the flatwater section from Covered Bridge in Contoocook down to Broad Cove.  Above the dam in Bennington is another flatwater section through Powder Mill Pond, up under the Covered Bridge and into the Contoocook River. Descriptions are in the AMC River Guide – Peterborough to Bennington and the AMC Quietwater Guide (NH) – Powder Mill Pond. 

The most popular whitewater section runs from Hillsboro to Henniker. The gage needs to be at least 7’ to run this section. Below 8’, it is mostly class III except Freight Train which is class IV. Above 8’, I should probably stay away. Tommy’s pictures are at 7.3’ and they don't look too bad - last three pictures are Freight Train.  He described the rapids as mellow, but that's probably an exaggeration.  This is another one of those "stretch" rivers that I would like to try sometime at the right level.

Ken's Video
Tommy’s Pictures
Powder Mill Pond from
Contoocook - Hillsborough to Henniker (Freight Train Section) from American Whitewater
Contoocook River Gage - near Henniker

Sunday, October 17, 2010

River Island Park - October 16th

The Woonsocket Falls gage was over 900 cfs yesterday, so I headed down to River Island Park for a couple of hours. The steep banks of the river kept me out of the wind, and I worked up a pretty good sweat.

River Island Park from Erik Eckilson on Vimeo.

For good or bad, this section of the Blackstone was in the news a couple of times this week - first because the Army Corps of Engineers is beginning a $1.5M project to remove trees and other vegetation from the two miles of flood control levees which line the banks of the river in this area, and second because work has begun on a plan to extend the Blackstone River Bikeway from Davidson Street up to Market Square in Woonsocket.

I must admit, I have mixed emotions about the flood control work. While I understand the devastation that floods can cause, I’m not looking forward to the to having the trees removed from the banks of the river. There are two nice runs in Woonsocket – Cold Spring Park and River Island Park – and both will look dramatically different. Whether we like it or not, the Army Corps of Engineers now controls the flood control system, and they seem determined to move forward.

Talk of extending the Blackstone River Bikeway up to River Island Park left me a little more encouraged – especially the talk of improving river access and parking along what is now the Truman Bypass.

This is a fun section of the river, but access is problematic.  Extending the Bikeway into downtown Woonsocket is a big project with some difficult challenges to overcome – I need to find out how I can get involved.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dams on the Lower Blackstone River

I was sorting through some old pictures yesterday, and was able to put together pictures of all the dams on the lower Blackstone River from Blackstone, MA down to Pawtucket, RI.

Rolling Dam - Blackstone Gorge

Waterford Dam - Blackstone

Woonsocket Falls Dam
(seen through the South Main Street Bridge)

Manville Dam

Albion Dam

Ashton Dam

Pratt Dam - Lonsdale

Valley Falls Dam

Elizabeth Webbing Mills Dam - Central Falls

Slater Mill Dam - Pawtucket
Pawtucket Falls Dam
(Photo  by Cheryl Thompson Cameron)
All can be portaged, although some are much more difficult than others.  The dams along the Blackstone River Bikeway from Woonsocket to Valley Falls (Manville, Albion, Ashton and Lonsdale) can be portaged relatively easily.

The next dam upstream in MA is Rice City in Uxbridge.  I would have had a picture of that dam if I hadn't lost my camera on SaturdayAbove Plummers Landing is the dam at Riverdale, followed by the Depot Street Dam in Grafton. I'm not familiar with the dams further upstream in MA, but I want to get up there sometime. The section from Riverlin Street in Millbury down to Grafton is on my list of places to paddle.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Riverbend Farm - Blackstone River/Canal Loop - October 9th

It was a beautiful morning, so I skipped the gym headed up to River Bend Farm in Uxbridge to run the Blackstone River/Canal Loop. The Northbridge gage was at 3.5 feet, so I figured the river would be at a good level.

I put in on the Blackstone Canal just upstream from the old Stanley Woolen Mill (Rt. 16). For the first mile, the canal was covered with a thick layer of green duckweed. It was like paddling through pea soup, but it cleared up before I reached River Bend Farm.

The river was fun with fast moving water and lots of twists and turns. There were a couple of tricky spots where the current pushes you into strainers and low hanging branches.  It would have been a great run except that I lost another camera when it got caught on the branch of a low hanging tree. I waded out into the river to see if I could recover it, but the water was well over my head.  I hate to admit it, but that's the second camera that I lost this year.

I’ll bet there would have been enough water for a run down from Plummers Landing. There was definitely enough water for a run down to the Blackstone Gorge. The foliage was great – and there are pictures in my camera sitting on the bottom of the river to prove it. If you find a blue Optio in your travels down the Blackstone, its mine.

River Description from the BRVNHC
Paul Hutch's Pictures from Pummers Landing and River Bend Fam

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The river I didn’t paddle last weekend - Knightville and Pork Barrel on the Westfield

Last Saturday I paddled the Lower Ash, but the Westfield was also on my list of places to go. I had done the Knightville section of the Westfield with Robin and Scott last spring at a release level (1,000 cfs. on the Knightville gage). Robin ran it again Saturday at 1,700 cfs. She said it was a lot of fun and that the gorge drop was easier at that higher level. According to Rob, 700 is low, but doable.   Its OK at 1,000 to 1,500.

On Friday, the Pork Barrel section was also running, and Ed “Brewbeer” was able to catch it . Here’s how he described it:

The river was described by someone on NPMB as “high medium”, but let me tell you, it was big and full to the banks. It was fast, pushy, continuous, and once the Swift River came in, huge. Enormous wave trains, very much like the West. No exposed rocks in the river, no eddies except an occasional one at the side of the river, also like the West. There were pourovers into big holes just about everywhere. It ran through an isolated, roadless, and undeveloped valley. There were frequent waterfalls along the sides. I managed to keep the open end up and me in the boat for the whole run, but I had to run the pump frequently - almost as much as on the West. All in all, it was an awesome run. I'm really looking forward to doing it again.
Pork Barrel is tough to catch. One guy said that Pork Barrel is at a medium level when New Boston is above 5’.  The INFLOW at Knightville Dam is probably a better indicator. When its above 1,500 its runnable; when its 2,000 to 2,500 its fun. Ed ran it at 3,300. The link is below:

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Lower Ashuelot - October 2nd

I had a good time today with Paul, Tom and Andy on the Lower Ashuelot in New Hampshire. The river was low but runnable - 5’, 1000 cfs on the Hinsdale gage.

The river is broken up into three sections - each separated by a dam that must be portaged. The put in is just upstream from the Ashuelot covered bridge. The first section is an easy class II. Take out on river left to portage the first dam.

The second section is shorter, but a bit more challenging – class II+. The best rapid is just above the dam. You can portage the second dam on either the right or the left, but the right is easier.

The third section has the most difficult rapids. Just below the factory bridge is the Papermill rapid - class III/IV depending on water level. I ran it straight through the center and made it through fine – except for a boat full of water.  The rest of the river was class III rock dodging. 

I received the Swim Award with 2 swims on the lower section. The first was relatively close to shore, and I was able to self-rescue quickly. The second was in the middle of the river at the top of a long, rocky rapid. I finally made it out about halfway down, but my boat didn’t feel like stopping and ran the entire rapid. Fortunately, Tom grabbed it just before it was about to enter the next rapid, or I would have had a long walk back to the car.

Lower Ashuelot from Erik Eckilson on Vimeo.

In spite of the swims, it was a good time on a fun river. I think I’d like to try it again with a little more water. The waves and holes in the Papermill Rapid would be huge, but there would be less rock dodging below that.

My Pictures
My Video
River Description from Americna Whitewater