Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Riding the Assabet River - Acton to Concord

When Old Man Winter winked this morning, I was ready to take advantage.  Mrs. Trashpaddler dropped my boat and me off at the completely ice-free Acton Canoe Launch and we were soon making good progress riding the Assabet River towards Damonmill.  Stops were only made for flagging patrons such as plastic bags, bottles, styrofoam cups, etc.
Upon reaching the broken dam at Damonmill, a quick decision was made to go with the flow and slip on through.  This time I started towards the left, then went to the right of the large rocks.  The Maynard gauge height was 2.67' and this is what the dam looks like at that height (from downstream)...
The day was warming nicely and it seemed surreal considering the winterlike conditions of the past 2 weeks.
Wildlife were also enjoying the springlike conditions.  There were Canada geese, mallards, American coots, a merganser or two, Muscovy ducks, and a belted kingfisher.
Following a lunch break in West Concord, I journeyed a bit up Nashoba Brook to within site of the bakery bearing the brook's name...


Turning around here I headed downstream passing under the Old Colony RR's Framingham to Lowell line...


This bridge may someday carry bicyclists traversing the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.

Once back on the river, this lone duck was hanging with a group of mallards...


The white patch behind its eyes has me wondering if it may be a juvenile merganser or bufflehead?

Next, it was under the Route 2 bridge and a bright blue sky...


Approaching the Leaning Hemlocks the ice was noted to extend out from the banks more so than upriver.  This American coot took advantage of the ice shelf...


Arriving at the Sudbury, Assabet, Concord confluence, things were looking good...


Ice was only an issue at the Lowell Road boat launch where it extended out a little too far for my liking.  I paddled back to the Calf Pasture where terra firma was more easily attained and then dragged my boat to the boat launch and a waiting Mrs. Trashpaddler.

Trash taking a taxi ride today are pictured alongside my boat's hull...


The 45 passengers were comprised of 13 recyclable containers (2 redeemable) and 32 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish such as plastic bags, styrofoam cups, cardboard, etc.  YTD total = 299

For a winter-hater such as I, today was like a tonic and greatly enjoyed!  It took me away from recent reading of long ago "Puritan good times" hanging Quakers, witches, Native Americans, pirates,...  

19 comments:

Erik Eckilson said...

I figured you'd be out today - I wish I was. What a great day, and you ran the broken dam. Nice!

Suasco Al said...

Erik, It was nice out there and I was amazed to find open water all the way down. This is a nice stretch of river and, for me, real close to home. The broken dam had always prevented me from enjoying the full passage. That all changed when you, Tommy and Jeff showed me how it's done. Thanks again.

Andrew said...

I recently stumbled upon your blog and enjoy it very much. I live on Warners Pond and have always wondered whether one could kayak to the pond from the Assabet. It's probably too shallow now, but is it possible at times? Thanks!

Suasco Al said...

Hello Andrew, Glad you dropped by.
Paddling from the Assabet to Warners Pond would be an interesting challenge. I'm not sure what the passage under Commonwealth Ave is like as I've never got close enough to see it. It might be best to pull one's boat along with a bowline in the area of the bakery.
How about the inlets to the pond? Is paddling into Fort Pond Brook and Nashoba Brook from the pond possible?

Andrew said...

I'm known to like a challenge once in a while, so I'm even more curious now! Unfortunately, I'm a total newbie to water sports and still reliant on a neighbor to take me around in his canoe. This spring, I plan to purchase a kayak or canoe and start taking my 5 year old around.

Some neighbors told me that they made it quite far upstream on Nashoba Brook when they were kids. In recent memory, the west side of the pond has been a mess of weeds but the Warner's Pond Stewardship Committee has organized weed pulls; the town also chemically treated the pond last year. I heard it's gotten much better and hope to check out the upstream side this spring.

I've walked along the peninsula to the coffer dams many times and believe that one could easily make portage from the pond to the pool below the dams near the Pail Factory bridge. The question then reverts back to the small stretch of Nashoba Brook to the pedestrian bridge. I have pond access so it would be great if I could launch from my back yard and make it to the Assabet!

Suasco Al said...

Andrew, Launching from your own backyard and then following Nashoba Brook to the river would be a satisfying accomplishment (in my book). Definitely easier than the reverse. Once past the bakery, your all set!

suep said...

hmm hard to tell from the angle of the photo - that duck is built like a sea duck - buffleheads have smallish heads, & more delicate beaks - do you have other photos of the same duck?
Sue, who can't find it in her bird book

Suasco Al said...

Suep, That's the only photo I have and it isn't very clear. It almost looks like there is white at the bill's tip. I couldn't find anything close in my field guides.

Andrew said...

We're going canoe/kayak shopping today. I'll let you know what I find out about access between Warners Pond and Nashoba Brook!

Andrew said...

My son and I made it upstream as far as where Fort Pond Brook joins Nashoba Brook. There's a downed tree just downstream for their confluence but you can get around it to the west. Unfortunately, there's a little cataract on the other side of the tree that prevents further passage upstream. You can just make out the Old Colony rail bridge through the trees. Maybe it's passable when the water is higher, but it might also be choked with weeds near the pond making it moot. I've posted a couple pictures at http://people.brandeis.edu/~akoh/warnerspond/.

Suasco Al said...

Andrew, Best of luck with your new boat and thanks for your update on reaching the confluence of the two brooks. Combined, they drain quite a large area. I'll look forward to seeing your photos.

Andrew said...

Thanks! We'll probably try to reach the Assabet next. Once we do, I don't doubt we can make it to the Old North Bridge, but my wife might have to pick us up in the car for the journey back. Our neighbors said they would try to make it upstream with us later in the spring. We're hoping to make it to Ice House Pond like the old days!

P.S. Warners Pond was quite clean today - only picked up one stray plastic bag.

Andrew said...

We made up Nashoba Brook past Route 2 into Acton, but it's tough going in spots (downed trees and sandbars). We made it as far as Teamworks Acton before it became impassable.

Suasco Al said...

Andrew, Sounds like some good work to have made it that far. Must have been novel passing under Rt.2. Probably not too many folks have done it.
Thanks for the scouting and progress reports.

Andrew said...

It was a bit of an adventure! I suppose I've lived in urban environments too long before moving to Concord, because I don't remember seeing so much concrete underpass without a hint of graffiti. I've posted new photos at the link I gave before. Happy travels!

Suasco Al said...

Andrew, I enjoyed seeing the photos from your journey up Nashoba Brook. Especially the location where the Framingham to Lowell Branch of the Old Colony RR crosses over. A second railine running to Nashua used cross the brook at the same location prior to around 1925. The slanted bridge looks interesting also. Thanks for providing the link to the photos.

Andrew said...

You know, I might have to walk down the rail bed to the brook and look around. I've never taken it west of Comm Ave. I know the Reformatory branch of the B&M joined the Old Colony rail near the brook (as seen on this 1890 map: http://www.oldmapsonline.org/map/rumsey/2883.027). I'm not sure how accurate it is but one website puts the famed Middlesex Junction pretty much on Route 2 (http://massachusetts.hometownlocator.com/maps/feature-map,ftc,3,fid,606178,n,middlesex%20junction.cfm). Do you know how the dilapidated bridge on the south side fits in? I was expecting to find an intact bridge on the south side (Old Colony) with a dilapidated bridge on the NORTH side (reformatory branch). I read conflicting reports on an old Yahoo newsgroup board where one claimed you could see remnants of Middlesex junction and another claimed it was gone.

Suasco Al said...

Andrew, I went back to an old article "I Remember Reformatory Station" by Harold I. Judkins that appeared in a Boston & Maine Historical Society Bulletin (Spring 1980). Judkins describes Middlesex Junction as being " about a mile further to a point known as Middlesex Junction, where a connection used to be made with the Old Nashua, Acton & Boston Railroad. This connecting track was torn up, as I recall, about 1899 or 1900. Before the track was ripped up, I remember that the 8:00 AM morning train from Reformatory would back up to Middlesex Junction to connect with the train from Nashua. Another connection was made there at 6:00 PM with the evening train from Boston." He later says "No evidence of the site of Middlesex Junction can be found today."

I ran across mention that the Old Colony line and the Nashua, Acton, and Boston shared the right of way between Middlesex Junction and N. Acton junction where the NAB veered off to the west leaving the Old Colony to continue north towards Lowell.

The slanted steel/iron bridge is puzzling.

Andrew said...

Comparing today's Route 2 with the late 19th century Union Turnpike, their outlines look identical. I wonder if the westbound lanes approximates the old Turnpike while the eastbound lanes were a later addition when Route 2 was formed and expanded. This would makes sense of all the maps, with the old Middlesex Junction being in the vicinity of where the rail now crosses the eastbound lane of Route 2.

I think I found a way to gather more information. Looking at the Concord land map, most of the area is restricted state/federal land (MCI). However, there's a small wedge of land hemmed in by Nashoba Brook, Fort Pond Brook, and Route 2 that is labeled as unrestricted state/federal land. Looking at Google's satellite map view, there is a turnoff from the eastbound lane just to the west. It apparently leads to a bridge over Fort Pond Brook for some reason (that alone piques my interest). I will try to park there and walk east to the rail bed. I will look for evidence for Middlesex Junction and the Reformatory Branch. I'm assuming that the Reformatory Branch was mostly ripped up from the rotary to Nashoba Brook for the prison farming, but I wonder if there are remnants in the little forested patch on the east bank of Nashoba Brook. If the weather cooperates (and MCI doesn't intervene!), I'll hopefully have some answers this weekend.