Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year’s Day on the Housatonic – January 1, 2017

West Cornwal Covered Bridge
One of the rivers that has been on my to-do list for a while is the Housatonic.  When I saw that a group would be paddling it on New Year’s Day, I decided to tag along. 

The Housatonic originates in the Berkshire Hills of western MA and flows south for 150 miles along the western border of MA and CT before emptying into Long Island Sound.  There’s lots of great paddling along the Housatonic River. The best-known whitewater section is a class IV run known as Bulls Bridge - it's well above my skill set.  There is also a pretty flatwater section from Ashley Falls (MA) to Falls Village (CT), and a nice quickwater run from Falls Village to Kent.  We would be running part of the quickwater run – putting in above the Covered Bridge in West Cornwall, and taking out at the at Housatonic Meadows State Park.

Running the Covered Bridge Rapid
The day was sunny and traffic was light as I did the 3-hour drive out to western CT.  A light snow covered the Northwest Hills as I met the group at the Covered Bridge in West Cornwall.  We ran the shuttle, dropping our boats off on River Road above the Covered Bridge, and leaving cars at the picnic area below the campground at the Housatonic Meadows State Park.  The river was at a medium-low level – 3 feet, 900 cfs. I guess you can run it down to about 500 cfs, and medium flow is around 2,000 cfs.

The West Cornwall Covered Bridge was first constructed in 1762, and is one of the earliest bridges across the Housatonic River.  Beneath the Covered Bridge is a short class I/II rapid known appropriately enough at the “Covered Bridge Rapid”.  This is the site of an annual spring slalom race.  We spent some time playing in the rapids before heading downstream.

Playing in the Covered Bridge Rapid
A little ways below the Covered Bridge Rapid is a shorter class I/II rapid known at the Ledges.  From there, the river alternated between flatwater, quickwater and riffles.  It took us a couple of hours to do the 5-mile run. 

I’d love to come back in the summer and spend a night or two at the Housatonic Meadows Campground.  We could paddle from Falls Village to the campground on day 1. Paddle from the Campground to Kent on day 2.  And maybe even do the section from Ashley Falls to Falls Village on day 3.  We’ll see.

A pretty section of the Housatonic
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