Sunday, March 17, 2013

Branch River Icebreaker – March 16, 2013

Twelve intrepid paddlers – 3 tandem canoes, 1 solo canoe, and 5 kayaks – ran the Branch River in RICKA’s annual Branch River Icebreaker.  The river was at a nice level – 3.5 feet, 400 cfs.  The trip almost started badly when a police car stopped and told us that we could not use the put-in at the Harrisville Dam which is now posted “No Trespassing”.  After a bit of negotiating, Mike B. was able to get us approval.  Otherwise, the trip was uneventful.  Three swims  - one below the Harrisville Dam and two in the Glendale Rapid.  Nice break at the Oakland Dam.  Good day.

Mike running Whipple Drop

Monday, March 11, 2013

Cold Water Paddling Gear

We are entering that dangerous time of year when the air temperature gets warm, but the water temperature remains cold. Yesterday, the air temperature was in the low 50’s, but the water temperature in my nearby river was in the mid 30’s. That’s COLD. Wearing proper cold water gear is essential. I haven’t done a video in a while, so this short video talks about the difference between wetsuits and drysuits - it’s not a comprehensive review, but it does go over some of the basics.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Snowshoeing at River Bend Farm - March 9, 2013

With today’s warm temperatures 8 - 10 inches of nice light powder turned into 4 – 5 inches of heavy slush, but it was still a nice day to be out. We took the Goat Hill Trail up the lock, and then went up along the canal about half way to Pummers Landing.


Wood/Pawcatuck Camping

I’ve been thinking about easy overnight camping, and for local trips you can’t beat the Wood/Pawcatuck.  There are actually three campsites on the Pawcatuck River - Stony Point on Worden Pond, Carolina Management Campsite below the Lower Shannock Falls, and the Burlingame Canoe Campsites.  There is also a bushwhack site at the convergence of the Wood and Pawcatuck and at the Grills Preserve of the Westerly Land Trust a couple of miles downstream from Bradford. As usual, spacing the camping out so you get a decent day paddling is the problem.

I think you could do a source-to-sea trip on the Pawcatuck that would take three days, two nights.  This is probably a spring trip so you can get through Great Swamp, and there are two long days of paddling.

Day 1 (6 miles)
  • Taylor Landing to Worden Pond – 6 miles
  • Camp at Stoney Point
Day 2 (18.5 miles)
  • Worden Pond to Biscuit City – 5 miles
  • Biscuit City to Shannock – 2.5 miles (portage Horseshoe Dam)
  • Shannonck to Richmond – 6 miles
  • Richmond to Burdickville – 5 miles
  • Camp at Burlingame
Day 3 (16 miles)
  • Burdickville to Bradford – 3 miles (portage Bradford Dam)
  • Bradford to Potter Hill – 7 miles (portage Potter Hill Dam)
  • Potter Hill to Westerly – 6 miles
There are no official campsites on the Wood River, but there are a couple of bootleg sites.  It looks like the best is about 2 miles down from the Route 165 on the left side of the river up a steep bank.  It is located where the river takes a sharp right turn just before it opens up and enters Frying Pan Pond.  You could do a three-day trip that includes the Wood River, but there are a lot of dams to portage.

Day 1 (2 miles)
  • Route 165 to bootleg site above Frying Pan Pond
  • Camp at bootleg site
Day 2 (17 miles)
  • Frying Pan Pond to Barberville – 2 miles (portage Barberville Dam)
  • Barberville to Wyoming – 3 miles (portage Wyoming Dam)
  • Wyoming to Switch Road – 1.5 miles (portage Hope Valley Mill Dam)
  • Switch Road to Woodville – 4.5 miles (portage Woodville Dam)
  • Woodville to Alton – 3 miles (portage Alton Dam)
  • Alton to Burdickville – 3 miles
  • Camp at Burlingame
Day 3 (16 miles)
  • Burdickville to Bradford – 3 miles (portage Bradford Dam)
  • Bradford to Potter Hill – 7 miles (portage Potter Hill Dam)
  • Potter Hill to Westerly – 6 miles
Overnight trips are easier.  I have put-in at Switch Road on the Wood River, camped at Burlingame (actually, we camped at the bushwhack site at the convergence of the Wood and Pawcatuck, but don’t tell anyone), and took out at Bradford – nice trip. You could put in at Shannock, camp at the Carolina Management Area or Burlingame, and continue down the Pawcatuck as far as you like. 

Lots of options – I’d like to do at least one overnight trip this summer.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Saco River Camping – Center Conway to Hiram

I’d like to do a camping trip this fall, and I don’t think the Allagash trip with the RICKA crew is going to work out – too bad.  I' m thinking that one option would be to do easy trip on the Saco River in ME. Probably two nights, and mid-week to avoid all the crazies. Here is a trip that Doug suggested on NPMB from Swans Falls to Brownfield: 
The put in is at Swans Falls and first campsite is on the Old Course just below the covered bridge. The Saco has mile signs posted on trees and a sign for the Old Course - turn river left. Go up about a mile or so and just below the covered bridge on river right is a lean to.  It is private land but we have talked to the owners and they do not mind paddlers staying as long as it is clean when they leave.  From there, go back to the main channel and just above Pleasant Pond we found a nice site to hang out.  At Walkers Falls/Rip there is also an established camping area. I’m not sure who runs it as we never used it, but it is there, and in off-season we have never seen anyone there. Just saying! We have taken out in Hiram in the past but now use Brownfield - a good takeout. Going to Hiram the land is posted heavily and there are not many places to camp. From Swans to Brownfield is about 25 miles give or take.
Tommy did this one from Conway to Brownfield:
We did two nights - Hiram would make three.  We put in behind the Conway Police Station on Meetinghouse Road in Conway, NH.  The rips below were boney. Some folks lined those. We carried Swans Falls - I'll bring wheels next time. Took out at the Brownfield Bridge in Brownfield, ME  It was about 29 miles – would be another 13 to Hiram Bridge.
There are lots of options in terms of put-ins and take-outs, it's just a question of matching up the campsites.  According to the AMC Guide, you can park cars at Saco Bound on Rt. 302, at Swans Falls, at the Canal Bridge on Rte 5, at Walker’s Bridge on Rte 302, at the Brownfield Bridge on Rt. 160 and on the at the Saco Valley Garage in Hiram.  Distance from Rt. 302 in Center Conway is: 
  • Swans Falls - 10 miles
  • Canal Bridge – 14 miles
  • Old Saco – 17.5 miles
  • Walkers Bridge (Rt. 302) – 21 miles
  • Walker’s Falls – 23.5 miles
  • Lovewell’s Pond – 25.5 miles
  • Brownfield Bridge (Rt. 160) – 30 miles
  • Hiram Bridge – 43 miles
Paid campsites along the river include:
Fiddlehead which is right on the river looks cool, and there is always free camping along the river as well.  One trip suggested by the Saco Canoe Rental Company is Canal Bridge to Hiram (3 Days, 2 Nights; 26 miles):
Start at Canal Bridge and paddle 8 miles to the more secluded Walker’s Falls Camping Area. This small campground offers porta-toilets, fire rings and a swim hole. On your second day you can paddle 10 miles and stop at Shannon’s Sanctuary for a full service campground. ($30 for river front site)  Day 3 would include an 8-mile paddle to Hiram to finish your trip.
Here are a couple of ideas that I had:
Start at Rt. 302 in Center Conway and paddle 14 miles (with a portage at Swan Falls) to the riverside campsites at Fiddlehead. On the second day paddle 10 miles to the Walker’s Falls Camping Area (with a side trip up the Old Course). On the third day paddle 7 miles and take out at the Brownfield Bridge (Rt. 160).  An easier overnight trip would be to put in at Swans Falls and Paddle 13 miles to Walker’s Falls.  On the second day paddle 7 miles to Brownfield Bridge (Rt. 160).
Looks nice, and since I've never been up there, using an outfitter for the shuttle and reserving sites would make things easier.  There are several outfitters include:
Water Levels:

100 - 450 cfs - very slow moving water 

450 – 1000 cfs - gentle current
1000 - 1200 cfs - quicker water
1200 - 1600 cfs - easy rapids

 Plenty of time to think about it.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Scouting the Branch - March 2, 2013

I got out with Jeff and Pat today to scout the Branch River for the “official” RICKA Whitewater Icebreaker trip on March 16th. The river was at 4 feet, 450 cfs – it dropped about a foot since Thursday, but it was still at a nice level. It was colder than I expected, and it think that kept us moving. The river is actually in pretty good shape – the ice is pretty much gone, and there are no trees blocking the river.

My Pictures
Forestdale Gage

Friday, March 1, 2013

Scantic Splash – March 1, 2013

Stokers - from the Scantic Splash website
The weather was good and the rivers were up, so I decided to take a day off from work to do some paddling.  I took a ride out to Connecticut today to run the Scantic River from Sommersville to Hazardville.  This is the site of a popular spring whitewater race – the Scantic Spring Splash. 

I met up with Paul and Ed at the take-out at the Powder Hill Barn off South Maple Street in Hazardville to run the shuttle.  Tim would meet us at the put-in off Quality Avenue in Sommersville.  We had 4 boats – 1 canoe and 3 kayaks.  The river was running at 70, which I am told is good.  The weather was beautiful – high 30’s.

Chimney - from the Scantic Splash website
We put in from a dirt road off Quality Avenue in Somerville (Somers).  For the first 2.5 miles the river meanders though a pretty hemlock forest.  It’s mostly quickwater with a couple of easy class I rapids and a few leaning trees to avoid.  After the Route 191 Bridge and a railroad bridge, we portaged the dam at the Springborn Center on river left. 

Just downstream from the portage is the first major rapid – Stokers.  This is a ledge with a 3 foot drop and a rocky shoot 6 to 10 feet from the left bank.  I lined up on the shoot, made it through the first big drop, only to hit a rock and take a swim a little downstream.  The consensus of the group was that I didn’t have enough momentum going though the drop, so I portaged my boat back upstream to run it again – this time with more speed.  Unfortunately, the result was the same.  Rocks don't move no matter how hard you hit them.  I didn’t try it a third time.    

Staircase - from the Scantic Splash website
The next major raid is Chimney – an “S” turn rapid that starts off as a series of small ledges with a larger drop at the end.  I made it through Chimney fine, although I did fill up my boat in the drop.

The final rapid is Staircase which is exactly what you’d expect - a series of ledges that looks like a staircase.  The largest ledge at the bottom has a nice wide shoot on river left.  We all made it through fine and decided to do some surfing.  The run ended at the Powder Hill Barn of South Maple Street in Hazardville (Enfield).