Friday, March 29, 2024

Second Swim of the Year - Scantic - March 29, 2024

At the put-in
We will be busy this weekend with the family for Easter, so when I found out that I had Good Friday off from work and that Paul D. was running a CTAMC trip on the Scantic, it was a perfect match.

The Scantic arises in Hampden, MA (southeast of Springfield) and flows general southwest for 40-miles to join the Connecticut River in South Windsor, CT. We would be running the 5-mile section from Quality Avenue in Somers to the Powder Hollow Barn (South Maple Street) in Hazardville that is the site of the Scantic Spring Splash downriver race. There are 4 class II+ (maybe class III at this level) rapids - Trestle, Stokers, Chimney and Staircase.

With all the rain this week the river was at a nice level with 2-feet, 150 cfs on the Broad Brook gage and 1.5-feet on the trestle bridge gage. Jo-Ann described it as “sporty”. We had 9 boats – 8 kayaks and 1 canoe - what else is new. We put in off Quality Avenue and headed downstream. The first 2.5 miles is mostly quickwater, and it was moving right along. The removal of the Springborn Dam in 2017 created the first major rapid – the Trestle Rapid under the railroad bridge.

Shortly after Trestle is Stokers - a 3-foot ledge that needs to be run about 10 feet off the left bank. I usually try move to the right after the drop to avoid the rock pile at the bottom. This time, it didn’t happen. The current pushed me left, but with the higher water level I made it through fine.

After some more quickwater and a nice surf wave comes Chimney - an “S” turn through some rocky ledges that is generally run down the center (maybe center left). I filled up my boat running the drop at the bottom. I pulled into the eddy, but I didn’t have my bailer and there wasn’t anyplace to get out to empty my boat, so I pulled back out into the current to find a place downstream. Unfortunately, with a boat full of water I flipped in the small drop downstream – second swim of the year for me.  Maybe it is time for an electric bilge pump (JTK CanoeRidge 

The last rapid is Staircase, which is exactly what you would expect - a series of ledges that look like a staircase with a large shoot at the bottom. I eddied out on the left as I came down to help line up on the shoot on the bottom, and made it through fine. Another fun day. It was a good Good Friday!


Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Tips for Whitewater Open Boating

I’m always working to improve my whitewater paddling. Here are some tips based on a post by Sammer Elias.

Cab-forward paddling
Work up front - "cab-forward" paddling

Where you put your body and place your strokes makes a big difference in performance. Think of your boat as having three zones - front, center and rear. You should spend most of your time paddling up front with forward and cross forward strokes. This "cab-forward" style helps you maintain speed and control. The next zone is the center. Strokes here are used to move the boat laterally and for braces, both of which are necessary. The place you want to spend the least amount of time is the rear. Strokes continued to the rear tend to kill momentum. Of course there are exceptions to every rule. When you have good forward speed and need a major correction, you can’t beat a good stern pry or reverse sweep.

Lean back to unweight the
bow in a drop
Lean forward, until you need to lean back

For most paddling, a slight forward lean will increase your stability and control by lowering your center of gravity and weighting the bow to engaging the forward chines for turns. Strokes at the stern cause you to have a slight back leaning posture, which can compromise your stability and balance. You will need to throw your weight back after a hard forward stroke to get a boof over a drop or unweight the bow when encountering a large wave below a drop,

Strong lean on a reverse
sweeping turn into an eddy
Steer with your hips - carving into turns

It is not enough to steer the boat with your paddle. You also need to steer with your hips. You do this by carving - leaning forward, tilting the boat onto one edge and engaging the forward chines. The boat will then turn to the side you engaged. Carving allows you to keep most of your strokes in the front of the boat while maintaining precise control over your turns.

Maintaining  momentum
over a drop
Maintain momentum for speed and control

Momentum is what allows you to go where you want to go, make the moves you want to make, and stay in control. When approaching difficult drops you want to build your speed and maintain through-out. When punching through holes, time your last stroke to catch the fast water flushing into the hole. When paddling in waves, a paddle stroke in the trough will accelerate you up the face of the wave to maintain speed and resist turning. When you encounter challenging features you need to keep your paddle in the water and paddle through it - driving the boat forward to maintain speed and control.

Eddy hopping downstream
Break rapids down into smaller sections

Many beginner paddlers try to run an entire rapid at once and hope for the best. With this approach you are much more likely to take on water, get thrown off your line, or encounter unexpected features. In bigger water it is better to break the rapid down into smaller, more manageable sections. Always be looking for your next eddy, and work to get there. Don’t leave that eddy until you pick out the next one downstream, and maybe a "plan-B" eddy just in case. 

Staying on top of the water
Staying on top of the water

As you are planning your route, look for dry lines that keep you out low areas – holes, pore-overs, etc. As soon as your boat is filled with water you lose speed and control and will find yourself fighting the current.

Practice tough moves
in easy rapids
Start with tough moves on easy rapids

As you work to improve your skills, start with more challenging moves on easier water – tighter lines, bigger waves, harder ferries. This will allow you to progress more confidently to more difficult rapids.

Friday, March 15, 2024

The "Really Upper" Millers - March 14, 2024

Heading out from the put-in
Usually, when I drive out to Royalston it is to paddle the whitewater section of the Millers River below the Birch Hill Dam known as the Upper Millers. This time we would be paddling the flatwater section above the Birch Hill Dam – maybe we should call it the "Really Upper" Millers.

The Millers River arises in Auburdale and flows 52-miles to join the Connecticut River in Millers Falls. There are lots of paddling options on the Millers including two sections that are popular for whitewater boating – the Upper Millers from Royalston to Athol (class II/III), and the Lower Millers from Erving to Millers Falls (class II/IV). In between from Athol to Orange is a quickwater section that is the site of the annual spring River Rat Race. Today, we would be paddling the flatwater section above the Birch Hill Dam from Winchendon to Royalston.

Earl finds some moving water
We met at 10:00 at the parking lot for the Birch Hill Dam off River Road in Royalston. Unfortunately, the gate on the road down to the canoe launch at the dam was closed, so we knew we would have to portage. We consolidated our boats and gear and headed up to the put-in at the Winchendon Canoe Launch (670 River Street, Winchendon).

For this trip we had four boats – all canoes, and Bob and Dan would be poling. The river was at a nice level with a slight current as we launched and headed downstream. For the first few miles the river twisted and turned though pine forests and swampland.

Lunch break at King Philip Rock
About 3-miles downstream we started to see the impact of the impound of the Birch Hill Dam. The pool behind the dam was 14-feet - normally it is 0. The river rose over its banks and started flowing through the trees. We were surprised to find the bridge at New Boston Road completely under water – Dan poled right over it.

We took a break for lunch a little further downstream at King Philip Rock, where Wampanoag sachem Metacomet held tribal councils during King Philip’s War. By now the river had completely disappeared and we were paddling through a large shallow lake filled with trees. From King Philip Rock we paddled through open water over to the beach at Lake Dennison, which is usually connected to the river by a small stream.

Portaging the Birch Hill Dam
As we continued downstream, we paddled past the remnants of an old trolly bridge, so we knew we were approaching the confluence with the Otter River. The Otter River arises in Templeton and flows north for 10-miles through the Otter River State Forest. We paddled a short distance up the Otter River before heading back downstream to the Birch Hill Dam.

The Birch Hill Dam is a part of a network of flood control dams on tributaries of the Connecticut River. Completed in 1941, Birch Hill Dam was one of the first dams the Army Corps of Engineers built in New England to prevent floods like those that devastated Athol and Orange in 1936 and 1938. At 14-feet, there was a large pool of water behind the dam, and the take-out at the base of the dam was flooded.

Paddling the final section to the take-out
We took a walk up to the top of the dam to take-in the view and assess our options. Then we loaded our boats on carts for the portage on River Road around the dam. Below the dam we were able to get back on the river for the short section down to the take-out. I got to sit by the river and watch the boats while the rest of the crew ran the shuttle back to the cars - a nice treat.

On the way home I decided to check out Doanes Falls on Lawrence Brook - a series of five waterfalls just above Tully Lake. When the Upper Millers is running the waterfalls at Doanes Falls are usually pretty spectacular, and they were. Lawrence Brook feeds into the Tully River, which joins the Millers River in Athol.


Sunday, March 10, 2024

A “Twofer” in Newport – March 9, 2024

Put-in at the Corbin Covered Bridge
Not Newport, RI - Newport, NH. I joined the NHAMC Class III Step-up trip on the Sugar River and Croyden Brook. As usual, I was the only open boater paddling with 21 kayakers.

The Sugar River originates at Lake Sunapee and flows generally west for 27-miles to join the Connecticut River. Tributaries of the Sugar River include the South Branch and the North Branch. The North Branch, known as Croyden Brook on American Whitewater, originates in Grantham and flows south for 10-miles through the town of Croydon to join the Sugar River in Newport.

Running Sweet Tooth
The morning started with a run on a section of the Sugar River that I first paddled as a student in the NHAMC Whitewater School back in 2005 - Corbin Road to Route 103. The river was at a nice level – 4-feet, 1,500 cfs on the West Claremont gage.

We put-in at the covered bridge, divided in groups and headed downstream. The river starts off with easy class I/II rapids until you reach Sweet Tooth – the largest rapid on this section of the river

Heading down Croyden Brook
Sweet Tooth is a jumble of large and small rocks. The rapid takes its name from two large boulders just left of center. Smaller boulders block the left side, so the usual route is just to the right of the large “Sweet Tooth” rocks. You can eddy out behind “the tooth”, or ride the standing waves downstream.

From Sweet Tooth to the take-out is pretty much continuous class II. We took a break for lunch before the second half of our trip – Croyden Brook. I have signed up for the trip on Croyden Brook several times with Joe O’Neil, but it always gets cancelled due to lack of water.

The big drop on Croyden Brook
The whitewater section of the Croyden Brook is 3 miles north of Newport on Route 10. We consolidated our boats and shuttled up to the take-out where Route 10 crosses the river. After leaving some cars we headed up to the put-in 1.7-miles up the road across from Glidden Road at an abandoned bridge.

Croyden Brook is narrow and creek-like with wave trains and lots of rock to dodge. It reminded me of the Shepaug or the Jeremy in CT, or the Mighty Quin in MA. The largest rapid on the river can be seen from the road just upstream of the take-out. The river takes a sharp right turn and through a series of ledges. The line is to the right. I actually walked this drop so I could get some pictures of the rest of the crew going through. 

Running Sweet Tooth on the Sugar River

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Quinebaug River - Danielson to Plainfield - March 3, 2024

Running the Dyer Dam
I needed to paddle a little later today, so when I got an email from Paul looking to paddle the Q2 at 1:00, it worked out perfect. 

The Q2 is the section of the Quinebaug below Danielson, CT. On this trip we did the 5-mile section down to Plainfield. You can also do another 5-miles down to Canterbury. I met Paul at 1:00 at Wayne R. LaFreniere Memorial Field (39 Wauregan Road, Danielson) for the shuttle down to the Fish Hatchery (145 Trout Hatchery Road, Plainfield). When I arrived I was surprised to see Mike there as well. The temps were in the low 60's, and we had a great level - 5 feet, 1,500 cfs.

Running the Wauregen Dam Rapid
The river starts off with quickwater until you reach the first rapid - the broken Dyer Dam about 2-miles downstream. There is rebar on river right, so the best line is center, or to the left. More quickwater follows until 5-miles downstream when you reach the Wauregan Dam Rapid above the Wauregen Road Bridge. The waves at the top right were big, but I stayed right anyway. We got a few pictures, but the video of Paul's run didn't come out.

The trip took us about 2 hours. Fun run, and I also got to pick Mike's brain on the Moosup River.

The crew - Erik, Mike, Paul

Scouting the Moosup River – March 3, 2024

Put-in at Brunswick Avne
Before paddling the Quinebaug with Paul and Mike, I decided to scout out the Moosup River. This was a popular whitewater river back in the early RICKA days, but I haven’t heard of anyone paddling it in years. I grabbed my 1980 edition of Canoeing Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut by Ken Webber and headed out.

The Moosup River arises at Clark Pond in Foster, RI and flows generally south and then west for 23-miles to its convergence with the Quinebaug River in Plainfield, CT.  There are two sections of the Moosup that were pretty regularly paddled in the past – the “wilderness” section in RI, and the “whitewater” section in CT,

Upstream from Barber Hill Road
The only person that I ever knew to paddle the “wilderness” section was Mike B. It twists and turns from Foster, through Coventry and into Sterling, CT. In the past it was kept clear of blowdowns by the boy scouts for their spring trips, but is now overgrown.  

The “whitewater” section was a pretty popular beginner run back in the old RICKA whitewater days.  I haven’t heard of anyone paddling this section for years. I couldn’t find a gage for the Moosup, but it was flowing nice today, so a good rain or snow melt will bring it up. The Quinebaug gage in Putnam (upstream) was 5.2-feet, 1,500 cfs. and in Jewett City (downstream) was 10.6-feet, 4,500 cfs

Upstream from Pond Street Bridge
The put-in is at an abandoned bridge on Brunswick Avenue off Goshen Street. The take-out is at an abandoned bridge on the School Street Extension off Black Hill Road. Mike said that in the past the locals could be a bit of a pain about parking and access at the take out – I don’t know if that is still true. Route 14 runs along the river and connects the put-in to the take-out.

Interestingly, three of the dams noted in Ken Weber's 1980 description of the run have now been removed. Moosup Dam #1 above the Norwich Road Bridge was removed in 2014. The Griswold Rubber Dam, described in Ken Weber's book as the “broken dam”, was removed in 2015.  And the  Brunswick Mill #1 Dam located just downstream of the put-in was removed in 2017. That leaves one dam remaining that needs to be portaged – below River Street after the railroad bridge.

Upstream from Norwich Road
(Route 12) Bridge
I found the put-in at Brunswick Avenue and it looked like access would still be possible. I checked out the river from several of the bridges over the river. It was at a nice level with the recent rain, and seemed clear of blow downs from what I could see. Its about a 4-mile run, and at least according to Ken Webber's book, the best rapids are after I-395.

Mike showed me the take-out at the School Street Extension off the Black Hill Road (Route 14). If you miss this take out, its 6-miles of flatwater to the next take-out at Canterbury on the Quinebaug.


Sunday, February 25, 2024

Surfing at the Martin Street Bridge - February 25, 2024

My original plan was to paddle the canal/river loop from Lonsdale to Ashton. I got down to the put-in and had a surprise – the canal was frozen. Well, it is still winter after all. Instead, I ended up surfing at the broken dam below the Martin Street Bridge. The level was great, and it is always fun to surf in my Yellowstone Sole.  Here is about an hour of paddling in about two and a half minutes.

Martin Street Bridge from Erik Eckilson on Vimeo.