Saturday, July 9, 2011

Shawsheen River - Under the Canal and Upstream

Having recently paddled a stretch of the Shawsheen River, for the first time, I decided to return on today's beautiful afternoon and explore a bit more of this serpentine body of water.  The view at left shows one of the few straight sections.
I launched into the river between Rt. 129 and the Boston/Lowell commuter railroad bridge.  It is on the Wilmington/Billerica border.  Almost immediately I found myself admiring the remains of the Shawsheen Aqueduct...
This stonework, built while George Washington was our president, supported a wooden trough that carried the Middlesex Canal over the Shawsheen River (the stone bridge visible behind the column carries Route 129).  It is hard to visualize a flat-bottomed canal boat being pulled by a horse so high above...

If the structure were still there today, there would probably be water leaking from between the wood timbers.  The water supply for the canal was the Concord River so there was probably some inter-river mixing, so to speak. 
This plaque attests to the historical significance of the canal and this aqueduct...


The Middlesex Canal was built between 1795 and 1803 and operated until 1853.  It allowed freight and passengers to be conveyed from the Merrimack River (upstream of Pawtucket Falls, Lowell) to where the Charles River empties into Boston Harbor in Charlestown.  This was a distance of 27 miles.  More information about the canal can be viewed at this link.

The area under the aqueduct was too shallow for paddling, today, and required pulling my boat with a rope, much like the horse and canal boat.

Once back in deeper water, progress upriver resumed.
The most prevalent flowers lining the riverbank were these Morning Glorys...

Less prevalent were these Pickerelweed flowers...

As a consequence of all the tight bends in the river there were many surprised river critters along the way: a wood duck family, a blue heron, an eastern kingbird, several musquashes, and numerous turtles.
After proceeding about a mile upstream, I began to encounter some beaverdams and blowdowns such as this one...

While this may look impassable, it actually had just enough nooks and crannies to allow passage.  Another blowdown about a quarter-mile further up wasn't as accommodating, so I turned around and began the trip back downriver.
Reaching my takeout location, the day's catch of 41 pieces disembarked onto the only remaining sunlit section of beach...
It was an interesting mix of glass, plastic and styrofoam and brokedown as follows:  18 recyclable containers (3 redeemable) and 23 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish such as 6 plastic bags that once contained GAF roofing shingles, other plastic bags, a styrofoam food container, and a plastic baseball bat.  YTD total stands at 3852.

I got home in time to enjoy the remnants of the day in Summerville...


3 comments:

Erik Eckilson said...

Wow - that canal bridge is pretty cool - nothing like that on the Blackstone Canal around here. Heading out to paddle now...where to go???

Mack's Kayak Racks for Storage said...

I admire your mission of trash collecting. You've inspired me to start doing this and it's something I can pass on to my children. I'd love to see it catch on in a big way.

I watched a movie called "Leaves of Grass", which was a great story by the way, last night and they talk about how we are all breaking the world and how it's important for us to "repair it". This trash collecting is a way for us to live as "repairers" instead of breakers and keep the amazing scenery pristine the way it should be.

Suasco Al said...

Erik, It's amazing to see how well that stonework has survived the ravages of time. It was laid-up dry with no cement. As I read more info, I found that there was a 'waiting basin' at each end for boats to await their turn. One boat at a time would occupy the aqueduct while passing some 30 feet above the river. Must have been quite a sight!

I hear you on "where to go???". So many rivers, so little time!