Sunday, July 12, 2015

Blackstone - River Island Park to the Pratt Dam - July 12, 2015

Bernon Mill in Woonsocket
After spending some time working in the yard yesterday, I decided to run something local today.  Michelle said that she would pick me up at the end, so I decided to run the Blackstone from River Island Park in Woonsocket to the Pratt Dam in Lonsdale.  The river was at a good level (2 feet,500 cfs) – just fluid enough to keep from bouncing off rocks.

I put in at River Island Park and headed downstream past the old Bernon Mills, which were built in 1828 and 1831.  I enjoyed the riffles and stopped to play in the waves under the Bernon, Court Street and P&W Railroad bridges.  After that it is about 4 miles of flatwater down to Manville.

Manvill Dam
Manville is one of the oldest industrial sites on the Blackstone River.  Industrial activity started there in the late 17th century when the Wilkinson family established a foundry on the site – Unity Furnace.  In 1811, the Unity Manufacturing Company was established to manufacture cotton cloth. By the 1920s, the Manville Mill was the largest textile mill in the United States with over 5,000 employees.  It was significantly damaged in 1955 during the floods resulting from Hurricane Carol, and completely destroyed in a fire a few weeks later.

I portaged around the Manville Dam on the bike path to the right.  The access to the river below the dam is steep and covered in poison ivy.  At 500 cfs the water is flowing pretty good below the dam, so I snapped a couple of pictures and continued downstream to Albion.

Albion Dam
Although you can’t see it from the river, the Albion Mill Village is one of the best preserved of the Blackstone River’s original mill villages.  The first mill was built here in the 1820s, and was expanded several times after.  The Valley Falls Company constructed the main section of the current mill in 1908.  After a couple of miles I portaged around the Albion Dam. On the bike path to the right and headed downstream to Ashton. 

The section of the Blackstone between Albion and Aston is one that I don’t paddle very often - probably because it is such a short trip. The most prominent features on this section of the river are the two huge bridges that carry traffic from Route 295 over the river. On the Cumberland side, the pike bath takes landlubbers on a pleasant trip along the river. On the Lincoln side, the banks are steep with huge rock outcroppings that plunge down into the river

Ashton Viaduct
The portage around the Ashton Dam is a two-step process.  First, portage from the river into the Blackstone Canal.  Then, portage for the Blackstone Canal back into the river.  I paddled out into the deeper water below the main spillway and headed downstream under the Ashton Viaduct and into the old Ashton Mill Village. 

The large Ashton Mill was built by the Lonsdale Company in 1847.  They also built the Berkley Mill about a mile downstream, and owned mills on the Lincoln and Cumberland side of the river in Lonsdale. 

I took out at the Pratt Dam and carried my canoe down the bike path to the parking lot in Lonsdale where I found Michelle waiting.  It’s about a 9 mile trip, and it took me 3 ½ hours.

Pratt Dam
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