Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Connecticut River - Pachaug to Wequamps

This past weekend I teamed up once again with good friend Paul (aka Capt'n Dangerous) to further explore the Connecticut River as it flows down through the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts.  This passage would take us under the French King Bridge where the river passes through a gorge, and past a rock named for that same French King by a French officer during the French and Indian War (opening photo).
But first, a base of operations/campsite was established at the Barton Cove Campground in Gill.  The campground, operated by FirstLight Hydro Generating Company, is not your typical campground by today's standards.  It is located on a rocky peninsula that extends almost a mile to a spot on the river known as the "Narrows".  This photo is looking towards the peninsula from Barton Cove with the "Narrows" visible in the distant right...
On that green peninsula are only tent sites (31) with no hookups and limited vehicular access.  Campers are allowed to drive into their campsite, unload their camping gear, and are then required to remove their vehicle to a designated parking lot which can be a fair distance from their camp.  In my case it was a 10 minute walk from tent to car.  This became a factor on Friday evening when just before turning in for the night I realized my pillow was still in my car.  Hmm, a combined 20 minute walk or go pillowless.  Off I went and while walking back in the gathering darkness an unfamiliar creature crossed my path...a critter I'd never encountered before.  It was a porcupine.  Perhaps because of my presence the porcupine ambled to the nearest tree and began to both embrace and climb it at the same time...the original "Tree Hugger"!

Amazingly for mid-June, and especially considering all the rain we've had, bothersome bugs were not an issue at the campground.
 
On Saturday morning Paul arrived from the Adirondacks and we shuttled boats to Pachaug some 14 miles to the north in Northfield where our downriver journey began.  Due to considerable rains of late, the hydro dam in Vernon, VT was releasing a good amount of water, and very little paddling effort was required on our part.  The day was a June classic, sunny and warm.
Munn's Ferry, another FirstLight operated camping facility, was located on the river's east shore.  It is only accessible by boat and looked like an ideal spot for through paddlers to spend a night.

Also on the east shore was the Northfield Mountain FirstLight generating station...
This is the least visible of the 15 generating stations operated by FirstLight yet, according to company literature, is capable of generating the most power.  Northfield Mtn. Station can generate 1,080 megawatts of electricity by releasing stored water from an 800' high reservoir down into a subterranean generating facility housing 4 giant reversible turbines each capable of pumping 27,000 gallons of water per second!  Water is pumped from the river up to the mountain-top reservoir at night, and then released back down during peak power demand times.

At any rate we soon reached the French King Bridge and the mouth of the Millers River where we stopped briefly at Cabot Camp.  Looking up the Millers showed it was also running swiftly...

After passing through the "Horserace" and the  "Narrows" we circled Barton Island before landing near the campsite.  Paul had once again brought his miniature tent which made my tent, by comparison, look like the Hilton...

Sunday morning arrived with clouds moving in and, after breaking camp, we brought our boats to the "official" Turners Falls portage point located at the end of Poplar St. in Montague City (below the dam and canal)...
This spot has a steep path down to the river and is below an old railroad bridge which is now a rail trail.  The Connecticut River mud is pretty greasy when the slightest bit wet.  Caution and patience are required!
Safely launched we were once again gliding down the river.  Just below the Pan American Railways bridge and East Deerfield freight yards, we encountered the first of seven bald eagles we would see on this passage...

On an island once known to the Pocumtuck Native American peoples as "Mattampash" we saw this eagle's nest and eaglet...

According to the 1910 published History of Montague: A Typical Puritan Town by Edward Pearson Pressy, Native American legends revolved around this island and the two prominent hills downstream of it.  The island is said to be where Pocumtuck sachem Wattawolunksin maintained his long house and lived out his final days.  Could his spirit possibly remain here today in this form?...
 

Downriver and to the east is "Kunckwadchu" (Mt. Toby)...
...where the man-eating "Wittum" is said to have lived before being slain by benevolent spirit, Hobmock.

Another legend involves a giant beaver who also resorted to eating people when his usual food was in short supply.  Once again Hobmock was called upon to slay the beast.  The giant beaver's head and body remain to this day in stone form as "Wequamps" (Mt. Sugarloaf) to the west and opposite the point where our journey ended...
As Paul took in the view of Wequamps he saw the outline of a fish in the formation.

Trash on this trip was very light.  Most was encountered where we landed or launched.  Very little was seen out on the river (which is nice for a change)...
There were 11 recyclable containers (1 redeemable) and 5 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish. 
YTD = 2962

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Al,
Do you know Jason Self, Shay Bickley or Chris Bensch?

Check out what they are up to.

http://seatrash.blogspot.com/

Bonecrusher

Suasco Al said...

Bonecrusher, While I do not know them in person, I do know of their OSOM(Out of Sight, Out of Mind)project out in the Pacific Northwest. They trash patrolled a 100 mile section of the Columbia River last year.