Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Great Day for Great Bay

Following Sunday's paddle to Newichawannock, repairing to overnight lodging in Portsmouth allowed me to access New Hampshire's Great Bay early on this past Monday morning.  With a 7:30 am high tide I launched at 6:30 am from Chapmans Landing on the Squamscott River in the town of Stratham. 

With me was nautical chart 13285 and a copy of Phil Blampied's Two Dozen Great Places to Float Your Small Boat (around Seacoast New Hampshire) both of which I'd purchased years ago in anticipation of this day.  Also fresh in my mind was this passage found in Russell M. Lawson's The Piscataqua Valley in the Age of Sail: A Brief History: "At high tide, according to one nineteenth-century observer "when this large basin is filled by the sea, the prospect over its pellucid surface, framed all around with green meadows and waving grain and noble woods, is truly enchanting.  but when the tide is out, a vast bed of black ooze is exposed to view, bearing the scanty waters of several small streams which empty into the great lagune." 
Launching from the "all tides" Chapman Landing would hopefully keep me out of that "black ooze".

After paddling about a mile I reached and passed under the railroad trestle where the Great Bay opened up before me...

Great Bay is said to be one of the largest estuaries on the Atlantic coast and also one of the furthest from the sea at about 10 miles distant.   The bay is a good 3 miles across and I headed NE towards the tidal outlet at Furber Strait.  This common tern watched my passage...

Approaching one of the Footman Islands...
...before reaching Furber Strait near Adams Point...

This strait leads to Little Bay and past the mouths of the Oyster and Bellamy rivers before reaching the Piscataqua River's main stem at Dover Point.  A considerable amount of water passes through here during each tide cycle.  At the time I reached this spot, the tide was just beginning to ebb.  Fishermen in several boats were trolling across on the Great Bay side of the strait.

This loon kept an eye on me...


Staying in the Great Bay I headed SE towards Thomas and Woodman points before arriving at little Nannie Island...


On Nannie were found both an Oyster shell and evidence of related crackers...

The day was developing into a beauty with Mr. Wind apparently sleeping-in as this view across the bay shows...



On my way back to the Squamscott River, I made a brief foray into the Lamprey River where this sign warned me to slow things down...

This beached canoe may pay testament to need for the sign...

The Lamprey narrows a short distance from its mouth...

Here I turned about and headed back to the Chapmans Landing passing under the railroad trestle...
...and by this occupied osprey nest...

By the time I arrived at the boat landing it was busy with both boat launchers and shore fishermen.

I found Great Bay to be truly a beautiful place to paddle, especially having done so with high water and light winds!

Before leaving Chapmans Landing for home, I checked out this swing bridge mechanism on display there...
It was once used in allowing the passage of sailing vessels transporting freight to and from Exeter at the head of tidewater.

This adjacent plaque explained just how important maintaining such navigation once was...

 

Very little trash was encountered in Great Bay which was great!...

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

To Newichawannock and the Falls

This past Sunday I returned to the Newichawannock River (aka Salmon Falls River) to resume the journey I'd started last Wednesday.  On that very windy day I had paddled from Dover Point on the Piscataqua upriver on the Newichawannock past the confluence with the Cochecho River and up to the Eliot Bridge (Rt. 101) in South Berwick, Maine.

Over the days following that paddle I found myself wondering about the Native American locale known as Newichawannock which is said to be only a few miles upriver from where I'd previously turned around.  Guess it's the eternal wondering about and wanting to know what lies around the bend in the river that drew me back.

So on a breezy and mild late Sunday afternoon with the tide approaching flood, I launched from the Maine side of Eliot Bridge (distant shore)...
 ...and began my ascent by picking up where I'd last looked upstream on Wednesday...

This section of river is patrolled by osprey such as this one...



About a mile beyond the bend pictured loomed the promontory seen in the opening photo.
Today its the location of the Hamilton House (built in the 1700s) and occupies a commanding spot on the river...
Known as Pipe Stave Landing it was head of tidewater (at low tide) and most likely would have been the perfect location for the 1630s trading post mentioned in historical accounts.

Being nearly high tide I was able to paddle still further upriver to where the Great Falls were once the dominant feature.  The first falls were the waters of the Asbenbedick River (today's Great Works River), which entered the Newichawannock from the east.  They were only a short distance above Pipe Stave Landing.  Today they've been contained behind this high dam...
 My boat and I are in the tame millrace.

The area just upstream from this point, while said to be a continuous rapid at low tide, could be attained at high tide for another half mile up to Quampeagan Falls.  Between the two falls a neck of land slopes gently downward and, facing to the southwest, would have been an ideal village location for the Newichawannock tribe during times of fish migrations...

A small island lies in the narrows between the falls...
...and yielded this old bottle...

Freed from the mud, it was still intact and may have been an ink bottle...

Beyond the island is the dam at Quampeagan Falls or the head of tidewater (at high water)...
 
 
 
 
In Russell M. Lawson's The Piscataqua Valley in the Age of Sail: A Brief History I found the following: "Every spring, the early seventeenth-century sachem of the Newichawannock tribe, Rowls, repaired to the point, which they called Quampeagan, that separated the Newichawannock from a tributary, the Asbenbedick (Great Falls) River.  At these falls of almost thirty feet, salmon was so plentiful that, according to one legend preserved by Sarah Orne Jewett, "one might walk across on the salmon, which wedge themselves into solid masses in their efforts to leap the impossible high fall near the mouth of Chadbourne's or the Great Works River".  Above the falls, the Newichawannock extends over thirty miles and the Asbenbedick twenty-seven miles.  From Quampeagan to the mouth of the Cocheco is four miles."
 
The Great Falls were, of course, tamed and put to work by Europeans creating much industry at South Berwick, and the salmon migrations are long gone.  Sitting in my boat where hardly a trickle of water gets past the high dam on the Asbenbedick I can't help but wonder about just how majestic these Great Falls once were...
 
 
Once back at Eliot Bridge, however, two horseshoe crabs were seen doing what they've successfully done for eons (in spite of human activities)...
 
 
 
Very little trash was encountered in these waters...
 


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Paddling Piscataqua

Yesterday, a work-related seminar brought me to the neighboring state of New Hampshire and to the vicinity of Great Bay (a large tidal estuary I've long wanted to explore).  At the seminar's conclusion I headed to a boat launch near the big bay's western end where northwest winds were found to be blowing 15 to 20 mph and the decision was made to switch to Plan B.   This alternate plan originated from Phil Blampied's Two Dozen Great Places to Float Your Small Boat, and required driving to Hilton State Park at historic Dover Point (opening photo).

The boat launch there is located very near the confluence of the Piscataqua River's east and west branches.  The west branch connects to both Little and Great Bays by passing under the Route 4 bridge (to the right in photo)...

The sailboat pictured had just exited Little Bay and entered the Piscataqua's main stem.

With the day's strong winds and the strong tidal currents my plan called for staying away from both the bridge and the bay and going instead in the opposite direction north and further upriver on the Piscataqua.   The incoming tide would be doing the same for another two hours. 
  
Launching at Dover Point those pesky NW winds harassed me until some shelter was found in the lee of Huckleberry Hill...
  
The chart on my deck showed the river I was paddling as the Piscataqua, but older maps such as this one show this section as the Newichawannock which came down from Asbenbedick and Salmon Falls.

I would've liked to cross over to the Maine side of the river but the gusty winds kept me hugging the New Hampshire shore.

After a while I reached where the Cochecho River enters from the northwest or to my bow's left...
Crossing the mouth of the Cochecho had me exposed to the wind until I'd entered the Salmon Falls River (still Newichawannock on older maps).

I continued up to the bend in the river past Eliot Bridge...
 ...where both the tide and I turned about for the trip downriver.  Two miles or so above this point was said to have been a trading post where much commerce between the Native Americans and the Europeans occurred prior to 1675.

Paddling now with the wind at my back, I arrived at Dover Point in seemingly no time. Before going ashore I took in this look down the Piscataqua as it continues towards Portsmouth and the sea...

Trash wasn't bad...



My next challenge was getting my boat to stay on my car's roof long enough for me to get the straps fastened before the wind could carry it away.  With this challenge surmounted, the first lobster roll of the season was enjoyed at nearby Newick's Lobster House.  The day may have felt like autumn but to my stomach it was summertime.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Finding Fair Haven

Took a little journey up the Sudbury River this morning en route to Fairhaven Bay.  Given the splendid conditions encountered at Nashawtuc Road Bridge it seemed a capital idea.



The inscription at Egg Rock showed water levels having dropped another half foot or so since my last visit on May 5th...



Not everyone had this Sunday morning off from work as this Keolis crew working on the railroad attests...

  
The absence of fishermen, other than two I saw fishing from Heath's Bridge, surprised me as it seemed fish were leaping clear out of the water all over the place.

Once past Heath's Bridge I had the river...
 ...Fairhaven Bay...
...and the bay's Brooke Island all to myself...
 
On my trip back downriver I encountered some newbies at Clamshell Bank...

Trash was very light consisting of plastic bags, a deflated soccer ball...


... and the first beer can I've encountered with an image of a car-topped canoe...
Reminds me of the opening scene in a certain 1970s movie which featured some great banjo playing.  The canoeists in that movie didn't find the Fair Haven that I did.

Friday, May 15, 2015

In the Company of Musquash

Spent the best part of yesterday afternoon paddling the Assabet River from Ice House Landing in Maynard to the village of Gleasondale in Stow.


Aside from 2 other kayakers, the critters mostly encountered were many mushquashes (aka Muskrats).  They were here, there, and everywhere.  Some patrolled the shoreline...
 ...while others passed like ships in the night...

This recently returned eastern kingbird regally watched over the proceedings...

Clear passage up and downriver was impeded by two fallen trees at the same location...
The view (above) is looking downriver about a half mile below Route 62.  On the left side is a submerged log with barely enough water above it to allow my boat to slide across.

Route 62 and the Gleasondale mill building basked in the afternoon sunshine...

Thoughts of ascending Fort Meadow Brook ended with this view of the box culvert...

Trash gathered up along the way...
Still more Scope bottles.