Sunday, April 27, 2014

Paddling in the Rain - Plummers Landing to Route 16 - April 26, 2014

Bob heads downstream
The forecast called for rain, but Bob and I decided to paddle anyway, so we met at 8:30 to run the section of the Blackstone River from Plummers Landing in Northbridge to Route 16 in Uxbridge. In additional to some nice paddling, there is a lot of history along this section of the Blackstone River including the Goat Hill Lock of the Blackstone Canal (1827), the stone arch bridge on Hartford Avenue (1867) that is part of one of the longest colonial highways in the area (1739), the Stanley Woolen Mill (1853), and Lookout Rock – a frequent meeting place of the Wampanoag Indians during King Philip’s War (1675-1678).

It was poring rain when we arrived at the Plummers Landing put-in on Church Street to run the shuttle. In spite of the rain, or more likely because of it, the river looked to be at a nice level – 4 feet, 600 cfs. on the Northbridge gage.

Entering Rice City Pond
This section of the Blackstone is in a considerable state of flux with the river constantly eroding its banks and creating new channels. About a mile downstream, the river has breached the old Blackstone Canal on the right, and much of the water now flows down the old canal trench.  Unfortunately, the canal is blocked with trees, so we stayed left to continue down the river.

When there is enough water, this is a fun section to paddle.  The river twists and turns, and it is a challenge to maneuver around the s-turns and through the strainers.   There was evidence of considerable flooding as we paddled downstream.  Blow-downs were stacked in large piles, the riverbank was stripped of last year’s foliage, and clumps of debris were hanging from trees and bushes along the banks as high as 4 feet in the air. 

Surfing at the broken dam on Route 16
The rain continued as we entered the calm water of Rice City Pond.  We stayed right and paddled down a flooded section of the old Blackstone Canal.  After paddling under the old Hartford Avenue Bridge, we crossed over into the river for the run through River Bend Farm down to the Stanley Woolen Mill and Route 16. 

Like the section below Plummers Landing, the section of the river through River Bend Farm twists and turns around s-turns and through low-hanging trees.  We ran the broken dam at Route 16, and did a little surfing before calling it a day.  Of course, the rain stopped just as we pulled off the river.  I wasn’t too interested in history on this trip. but I did enjoy a rainy paddle down a pretty section of my favorite local river. 


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Upper Millers - April 21, 2014

The shuttle bus
With the Easter holidays, I hadn’t done any whitewater paddling in a couple of weeks, so I decided to take Easter Monday as a vacation day to run the Upper Millers with Andy, Paul, Ken G. and John Kaz.

Andy wanted to get an early start, which worked out fine with me.  We met at the take-out on Crescent Street in Athol at 9:30 and piled all the boats on my van for the shuttle.  When we arrived at the put-in on Blossom Road in South Royalston, the river looked like it was at a perfect level – 4.5 feet, 1,500 cfs on the Birch Hill Dam Gage. 

We put in and headed down the first rapid – a long class III with lots of rock to dodge and some great wave trains.  The rapid ends at a railroad bridge with some big waves that are great for practicing jet-ferries.  John Kaz (owner of Millbrook Boats) could do more that that.  He was paddling a new Blink (9 feet long, 28 inches wide), and he could make that boat dance.

The rest of the run was just as fun.  We took our time and played in some of the easier rapids downstream.  Kaz would always seek out the biggest waves, and the Blink never took on water.  I had to dump my Encore at the end of each rapid.  He was bailing with a sponge.  I did get to paddle the Blink at the end of the run - fun boat.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Canal/River Loop - Ashton to Lonsdale - April 13, 2014

How many blow-downs does it take to ruin a trip?  I’m not sure, but I came close to finding out yesterday when I ran the canal/river loop from Lonsdale to Ashton.  There was lots of water in the river, but the canal was low, and there were lots of blow-downs.  I was able to pick through most of them, but it made for a long trip.  Nice day otherwise.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Mighty Quin – April 1, 2014

Pat runs the put-in drop
With all the rain we had earlier this week a lot of local rivers have been running, so I decided to take an afternoon off to do some paddling.  Paul immediately suggested the 3-mile section of the Quinapoxet River from River Street in Holden to the Wachusett Reservoir in West Boylston

The "Quinny" or "Mighty Quin" is a class II/III run that can be tough to catch. The minimum level for this river is about 8.5 feet. Many people say 9.5 feet is a good level. We ran it yesterday at 10 feet, 500 cfs. which turned out to be perfect.  We had 5 boats – 4 kayaks (Ed, Paul, Jon and Pat) and 1 canoe (guess who).

Ed does some surfing
The trip starts with quickwater and some easy class I/II rapids.  There is also a nice play hole at the put-in, but it was a little too big for my liking, so I took a pass.  Ed did some surfing there, as did Jon who pulled off a nice combat roll.

About 2 miles downstream the action picks up with a class III rapid at the old Springdale Mill.  The easiest line though this rapid is to stay left and catch the big eddy just downstream of the old breached dam.  Jon went first, went a little too far right, but was able to get into the eddy.  Pat went next, went way too far right, and flipped in the big waves in the middle.  He pulled off a nice combat roll before I pulling into an eddy downstream.  I pulled into the eddy without difficulty, and Paul took his usual line down the middle just left of center. 

Paul running Springdale
From there, there are some nice class II+ rapids down to the take-out.  I found staying a little right resulted in a drier line through the 3-foot drop just downstream of I-190.  I got spun around in the last big rapid above the take-out, ran most of the rapid backwards, but eventually flipped at the end.  The open boater is named Captain of the Swim Team again, but who cares.  It was another great day.
The shuttle van, but where is the canoe?