Saturday, August 15, 2009

Concord River - Rt. 225 to Talbot Mill & Return


Today at 7 am on a stunningly beautiful summer's morning, I launched my kayak into the Concord River at the Bedford boat launch and began heading downriver. The theme of today's trash patrol on the Concord River was "Two Brothers" as it retraced pieces of the routes taken by two sets of brothers a few hundred years apart.
The first two bothers weren't really brothers by blood but considered themselves so because their respective children were married. One was Governor John Winthrop and the other his Deputy Thomas Dudley. In 1637 these two well connected gentlemen had been granted large parcels of land to the north and east of Concord by the General Court. So in 1638, they travelled from Cambridge to Concord and then down the Concord River to lay claim to their new lands. After covering about 5 miles they came upon two large boulders. Here they went ashore and divvied up 22 hundred acres between them. Wintrop called the rocks "Two Brothers Rocks". Ah yes, sounds a lot like today's Massachusetts politics, doesn't it? (Also reminds me of the Pope who gave half the world to Spain and the other half to Portugal).
The site as it looks today...

This photo was taken on my return trip when I stopped at the site to divvy up my trash haul for the day.
Shortly after leaving Two Brothers Rocks, I knew it was going to be a good day when this osprey or fish hawk was encountered...

And a little past the osprey, I encountered a man enjoying an early morning swim in the river...

His name was Dave and he had waded in from a beach unfortunately littered with empty beer cans, and 2 full to overflowing trash barrels. We talked about how the nickel deposit just doesn't seem to be adequate these days and how redemption centers are difficult to find. Dave remembered that there used to be a 'Beach Association' that cared for the property, but that no longer seemed to be in existence. Dave also noted that the trash wasn't there just a day or two ago. While I picked up the 82 cans and bottles lying about the beach, a woman named Karen arrived by kayak and said she would see to the disposal of the 2 full trash barrels.
As I continued downriver, I was now following hot on the trail of the other two brothers, John and his younger brother Henry, both natives of Concord. They had made their journey only 170 years ago on the last Saturday of August and had left their village, near the present Nashawtuc Road bridge, in a 15 foot long rowboat they built themselves. Soon I was passing and looking back at the island where I believe they made their first night's camp...

Dave and Karen said it is called Jet Island today. Of course the water levels John and Henry saw were more typical of late summer, and they noted that the neck of land where they camped would be an island in spring. With today's springlike water levels it was indeed an island.
From this point on, I was following their Sunday route and it took me under the Route 3 highway bridge, under Route 3A in Billerica, and past the water intake station for the Town of Billerica Drinking Water Plant...

None of these were here 170 years ago and the two brothers actually used the river water, just as it was, for both drinking and cooking.
One thing we all probably saw was herons, like this one seen today...

After passing under Pollard Street the Fordway Bar is encountered...

This area requires some care in passing by the larger rocks that the river funnels through. Shortly thereafter the dam at Talbot Mill is reached and this is where the trail of the two brothers vanishes...

Back in 1839 they were able to avail themselves of a technology that I, today, cannot. Basically, they went "that a way"...

My kayak's bow is pointing to what once was the entrance to a lock on the Middlesex Canal. The brothers entered the lock which granted them access to the Middlesex Canal. One steered while the other ran along the towpath pulling the boat the 6-miles to another lock located at Middlesex on the Merrimack River. I went ashore and walked to where a remnant of the canal they used still exists...

Today it is hard to believe that boats arriving at this spot on the Concord River could once utilize the Middlesex Canal to go either east to Charlestown, or west to the Merrimack River upstream of Pawtucket Falls and then north all the way to Concord, New Hampshire (utilizing additional sets of locks). More information on the Middlesex Canal can be found at this link. Note: The Concord River downstream of the dam was not a navigable waterway for boats due to a long section of rapids in the last mile or so to its confluence with the Merrimack in Lowell.
On one of my upcoming paddles I hope to launch into the Merrimack and rejoin the brother's trail at Middlesex, then follow it as far upstream as possible.
Their 1839 journey would ultimately take them to near Concord, NH and then back to Concord, MA. A few years after completing their trip, John died at a young age and Henry would later, while living at Walden Pond, write his first book about the week they spent on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. It was self published in 1849 and did not sell well until after Henry David Thoreau had passed away.
Since I could proceed no further without the canal, I would turn my boat back upriver and return towards Bedford. On the way back, the fishermen I encountered were having varying degrees of luck. One pair had several bass while another fellow had caught a 10-lb carp and a small northern pike. Other wildlife seen today, in addition to the herons and osprey, were a belted kingfisher, tree swallows, ducks, a few Canada geese, and numerous turtles enjoying the sun's warmth.
As I mentioned earlier, at Two Brothers Rocks, I stopped to divvy up my load of trash for the day...

The day's count was 113. Of these, 102 were recyclable (75 redeemable) and 11 were misc. rubbish such as plastic bags, bait tubs, and a fishing reel. My YTD total stands at 3334.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Although it's been a year and a half since you wrote this, I really enjoyed it! I grew up in Billerica. Up to 14 years of age I was living on Nuttings Lake, in which my friends and I explored all the woods and walked along the banks of the Concord under RT.3. Then moved to North Billerica where I live about 50 yards from the Pollard st. bridge on Treble cove and explored the banks all along there. No Internet and not much (home) video games then!

Suasco Al said...

Anonymous, Glad you enjoyed reading this post and thanks for bringing it to mind on such a cold winter's morning. I enjoyed revisitng that beautiful day and thinking about the summer side of life.

Andree Pages said...

I guess it's been 3 years since you posted this, but I really enjoyed it. I'm an expat living in France, dreaming of retiring someday near where I can swim and kayak and live near old houses. Grew up in RI. From your pictures, this area looks beautiful. Climate change is making me apprehensive about the winters, though...

thanks for the pictures and the commentary.

andree

Suasco Al said...

Andree, You're welcome and I'm glad to hear you enjoyed this post. The day of my visit there was a spectacular one with perfect weather.
I agree with your concerns about the possible effects from climate change. Our past winter was an unusually long one around here. Too long for my tastes.