Monday, June 27, 2011

Into the Mystic

After hearing and reading much about the Mystic River lately, I finally took the plunge, so to speak, and paddled its lower section this morning.  The photo at left looks downriver and towards the Mystic River Bridge visible in the distance.  It was taken shortly before I turned around and began heading back upriver.
I wasn't sure if reaching this point would be possible as there is a barrier in the form of the Amelia Earhart Dam...


Not knowing the proper lock procedure, I was hanging around the upriver side when a friendly lock operator asked if I wished to pass through.  A few moments later I was sitting inside the lock, in limbo between fresh water and salt water...
 While waiting for the water level to rise I was reminded of my favorite passage in Thoreau's A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers:  "By noon we were let down into the Merrimack through the locks at Middlesex, just above Pawtucket Falls, by a serene and liberal-minded man, who came quietly from his book, though his duties, we supposed, did not require him to open the locks on Sundays.  With him we had a just and equal encounter of the eyes, as between two honest men."

Thus I was afforded the opportunity to paddle into the Mystic's salty section and take in this view of the Bunker Hill Monument...
It almost looks like the crane is getting ready to pick it up.

As I began my return trip upriver, I wondered if the Tarrantine war party came this way back in 1619 while on their mission to find and kill Nanepashemet, the grand sachem of the Massachusetts federation.  The great sachem had taken his final refuge in a fortress built upon Rock Hill in Medford  which overlooked the river.
Historians note that the Tarrantine were capable seamen possibly using small shallops they obtained from Basque whalers and fishermen.  Whether by sea or overland, they ultimately found and killed Nanepashemet.

If they were to return today, their upriver progress might be delayed until they could get the attention of the lock operator at Amelia Earhart dam...
A horn is the best method.  Not having one, I resorted to whistling and shouting.

Once through and back into fresh water, this was the view upriver...
Recently, both Will and Faith had mentioned there being a fair amount of trash in this river.  They were correct.  Empty plastic bottles were seemingly everywhere.  Most were trapped in the mats of lily pads extending out from the riverbanks.  After trash paddling about 2 miles of river, my trash laden boat and I approached the takeout location at Mystic Riverbend Park...
Once on solid ground my boats contents were disgorged...
There were 145 pieces of trash.  The breakdown: 81 recyclable containers (7 redeemable) and 64 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish such as styrofoam, plastic bags, nip bottles, 2 syringes, and the cool "Summerville" sign.  My YTD total stands at 3444.

Wildlife seen today were mute swans, a tern, cormorants, ducks, blue herons, and numerous jellyfish on the harbor side of Amelia Earhart Dam.

Next time, it will be up to Rock Hill and possibly Lower Mystic Lake.

9 comments:

jbxpro said...

I'm very glad to get the "trash paddler" take on the Mystic. I went to Tufts long ago and have lived North of Boston for years and get a thrill each time I go for the urban paddling experience and brave the Mystic, under bridges I've crossed hundreds of times. Hope you get a chance to paddle up to the Mystic Lakes at some point (and perhaps the Aberjona at the Northern end), and/or to venture up the Alewife Brook (http://jbxpro.blogspot.com/2010/07/no-alewives-but-carp.html), one of the Mystic's historic tributaries ... up which you'll find plenty of trash!

Suasco Al said...

jbxpro, Those other sections all sound interesting as well as the Malden River of which I got just a glimpse of today.
It's hard to believe that the Amelia Earhart Dam doesn't have a working fish ladder. Especially considering it was built in 1966!

Will said...

Thanks for coming to the Mystic River. Next time you should come over to the Mystic Lakes by the fish ladder where there are tons of night herons, cormorants and blue herons waiting in the water to catch a fish. I've found some disgusting trash over there like asthma inhalers and half-full beer cans. I went to elementary and middle school at the McGlynn School where they have the wind turbine.

Suasco Al said...

Will, I'm glad you suggested a visit back several months ago. The river is amazingly tranquil and scenic while being surrounded by such a bustling community. Sort of like two separate worlds.
The spot where I launched was very close to the wind turbine, the school and Hormel Stadium.
Yesterday's sea breeze had the big turbine rotating upon my return.

mike-cohen@juno.com said...

Glad to find the info about the locks at the Amelia Earhart Dam. I live by Horn Pond in Woburn, and have kayaked across the Pond, portaged over to Horn Pond Brook down through Winchester to where it joins the Aberjona (behind the Stop & Shop), and then continued through the Center to the Mystic Lakes, and then down to Medford Center. Have always wanted to continue on from there to Boston Harbor, so the Dam info will be useful. If you ever do go upriver to the Mystic Lakes, you'll see that there's a reason the first one is called the Lower Mystic Lake. It's about 20 feet lower in elevation, and it's quite a portage to the Upper Mystic Lake.

ryanwnzl said...

Thanks for your posting and special thanks for helping clean things up out there.

I was wondering what the hours of operation are for the locks? Any idea how late they will be operated or who I could contact to find out?

Thanks again.

Trashpaddler said...

You're welcome Ryan. My guess would be it's the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) that operates the locks at Amelia Earhart Dam.
I'm not sure of hours, but again, would guess them to be 24/7. Only thing I know for sure is that a good air-horn or whistle is necessary for communicating request for passage.
Two long and two short blasts of horn, then wait for green light before approaching the gate.
When light is red stay more than 100 feet away from gate.

Doug Faber said...

I think people would continue to throw trash into the water, until the only thing you could see was garbage. As a kid in the 50's, I remember seeing a lot of carp in the lower Mystic lake, but also seeing Styrofoam, and junk floating down river also. The whole area is so beautiful, and it's such a shame to read, about the abuse humans still heap on nature. Thanks to everyone who gives attention to removing the refuse. Heading out for a day of clamming and fishing on a friends boat was quite fun, but the locks of Medford, I found quite eerie. Water swirling, and gates opening and closing. That was where a lot of trash got stuck, and seemed to rear it's ugly head every time we passed thru. I was told the state spent a lot of money cleaning the water some time ago.

Trashpaddler said...

Hello Doug, I suppose the locks would be a good spot for some kind of a movable "Trash Trap" if such a device could be designed.

Perhaps the proposed casino will focus more attention on the health of the Mystic River.