Monday, June 18, 2012

Some Interstate Paddling on the Connecticut River

For the first half of its approximately 400 mile length, the Connecticut River serves as the boundary between Vermont and New Hampshire.  Over the past three days my paddle blades have been dipping into the waters of both states, as I visited sections of the river above and below Wilder Dam.  The opening photo shows the bridge connecting Fairlee, VT with Orford, NH.  A visit to this part of the Connecticut River was suggested by my friend Captain Dangerous of the Adirondack Pirate Paddlers, and we scheduled it for Sunday.
I decided to head up a day early and check out the legendary confluence of the Connecticut and White Rivers; aka White River Junction.  In addition to waterways, this confluence became a major meeting place of railroads and highways.  I drove along one of those highways, Rt. 89, to the exit just before the Connecticut River and began looking for the Lebanon, NH Public Boat Launch.  In preparing for my visit, I'd checked the Connecticut River Paddlers' Trail Web site  to find access points and was provided what turned out to be accurate gps coordinates.  However, none of the roads shown on my map connected with the location.  So there I was behind a busy shopping plaza mid-day on Saturday with no clear idea of how to reach the boat launch.  That's when I saw a fellow, sitting in a lawn chair at the edge of the woods next to a beat-up vehicle packed to capacity with belongings.  I asked if he could help me in locating the boat ramp and he kindly provided detailed directions and alerted me to the road's very deep ruts.  As we talked, I noticed his vehicle had a decal stating "It's a good day to be Indigenous".  I asked if he was Abnaki and he answered "part Navajo, part Blackfoot".  The front end of his vehicle was badly damaged and he wasn't sure how he was going to proceed.  It was fairly obvious that he was living out of his car and down on his luck.  Nonetheless, he readily helped this complete stranger. 
The ramp is just upriver from the point where the Macoma River enters the Connecticut.  After getting underway, I paddled into the Mascoma just a bit and encountered this little fellow swimming across...
I hoped his successful river crossing was a good omen for both the Native American gentleman and myself. 
Turning upriver towards White River Junction, I began working to overcome a stiff current of about 2 mph.  After about a mile and a half I approached the legendary confluence...

Getting out of the Connecticut's strong current afforded me the opportunity to drink-in this view of the White River...


With another confluence knocked off my list, my boat was again on my car's roof, and we headed north passing the most likely source of the 2 mph current, Wilder Dam...

The river is navigable for 40 miles above this dam.
My next destination was The Pastures Campground in Orford, NH, about 20 miles above the dam.  This campground was ideal for my purposes, providing tent sites conveniently located next to a ramp from which to launch kayaks or canoes into the river.  The campground also has kayaks, canoes and pontoon boats available for rental.  After setting up camp, I had time for a late-afternoon paddle and followed the campground owner's suggestion to head upriver to Jacob's Brook.  Before the brook enters the river, it meanders about with no discernable channel.  Exploring the many shallow backwaters allowed me to encounter these mergansers (?)...


A white-tailed deer was also seen dashing into the tall marsh grass.

The next morning, Captain Dangerous arrived and we quickly shuttled a vehicle down to Wilson's Landing before beginning our downriver journey at about 11 am.  Where Clay Brook enters from the New Hampshire side, this scenic covered bridge carries River Road over the brook...
Back on the Connecticut we stopped at the Roaring Brook campsite for lunch...
This would make an excellent stop-over site for folks traveling up or down the river.

The day was rapidly warming as these soon to be plunge-takers attest...
We couldn't see how they got up there as no ladder was evident.

The Capt'n approved of this vessel's flag and serpent...
By the time we reached the river's confluence with the Ompompanoosuc River, we'd practiced trying to pronounce it the same way twice, without much luck.  The actual confluence has been modified by a railroad causeway.  After passing under the RR bridge (with more plunge-takers) the crystal clear and shallow waters of the Ompompanoosuc were appreciated.  A nice boat launch is just a little ways in on the river's north side...
Ompompanoosuc is said to be an Abnaki name meaning "mushy/quaky land".  After the Rt. 91 bridge the river narrows as seen in this view looking upriver...
We returned to the Connecticut and paddled the last half mile down to Wilson's Landing where the day's journey ended.
The Capt'n then headed back to his lair in the Adirondacks, and I spent another comfortable night at my campsite.  On waking this morning, I decided to make another visit to Jacob's Brook and found slightly higher water levels than those found on Saturday.  This allowed me to get past the sandbanks...
 and in doing so, proceed up to the falls above Rt. 10...
Any paddlers making the trip up to this point should remember to bring a nickel with them for the return trip toll...
Enroute back to the river, these blue flag were encountered...

Upon emerging from the brook, this vista of "The Palisades" looms over the river...
The narrow strip of land at its base is busy conveying Rt. 91, Rt. 5, and railroad tracks all following the course of the river.

Returning to the campground my combined trash haul for the 3 days gathered in the sun...
There were 20 recyclable containers and 23 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish.  YTD = 3344.

This little old Boston & Maine Railroad caboose in the nearby village of Ely,Vermont  reminded me that just as with freight trains, all good things must come to an end...









3 comments:

Voodoo said...

Your trip looks like a great adventure. I am hoping you can help me find Captain Dangerous as I would like to know if the Adirondack Pirates will be paddling on Lake George on New Years Day. Thank you, Voodoo

Trashpaddler said...

Hello Voodoo, I believe the Capt'n can be found on Facebook.

Trashpaddler said...

Voodoo, Capt'n reports New Years Day paddle will be held at usual location starting at 10:30 am on Friday.