Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Paddling About in the Pioneer Valley

This past three-day weekend provided me a chance to get in some paddling and camping in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts.  I drove west along Route 9 on Friday morning and upon reaching the southern end of Quabbin Reservoir turned left down River Road to where Cold Spring Road crosses the Swift River in Belchertown.  From the launch area near the bridge, I headed downriver to the dam in Bondsville.  As opposed to the river upstream of the bridge, this section is anything but swift (opening photo).  There are numerous backwaters and small islands.  One island had this old trap...
...which didn't appear to be baited.

The same island's shoreline gave up this old clay pipe...
It may have been last smoked in the 1800's (possibly by a pioneer).


What appeared to be an uninhabited riverside dwelling stood watch at the last bend before the dam...

This part of the Swift River provided a mellow kickoff to my trip, and yielded a small trash haul to boot...

From here I journeyed further to the west where my base of operations was established at the Windy Acres KOA Campground in Westhampton...
As I get older I'm finding car camping to be more and more appealing, especially with recent developments in portable cots which allow a truly comfortable night's sleep up off the ground. 

On a rainy Saturday morning I traveled west on Route 66 to the "Hidden Hills" area of Chester and Littleville Lake on the Middle Branch of the Westfield River.  I launched at the Dayville Fishing Access at the lake's north end and paddled the short distance to where the river enters the lake...

Once in the lake I was welcomed by some mergansers...
...and this very regal blue heron...

The morning's low clouds and occasional showers set a moody stage...

Eventually the impressive dam structure materialized in the distance...
The dam's height and beaver-chewed trees seen several feet above the lake's surface indicated the wide fluctuations in water levels that must occur here.

On my return trip I hugged the lake's west shore and saw two examples of nature's delicate balance.
The first...
...a ribbon of eggs interwoven around this dead tree stump's roots.

...and the second...
...a perfectly balanced rock.

My trash haul had me wondering if the resident fish had sent for some take-out...

Before I took out, I paddled just a bit upriver to get a better taste of the Westfield's Middle Branch...

The fishermen I encountered all reported good trout fishing in this river's clear and clean waters.

On my way back to the campground I took the long way following the Westfield River's main stem from Huntington down through Russell and into the village of Woronoco where I stopped to admire the falls there...
It is said that Chief Greylock (aka Wawanolewat) was born around these parts.  Further to the north and west, the highest point in Massachusetts is named for this Native American leader.

Back in my tent the rains returned for a second night and my musical earbuds helped to drown out the sound.

Sunday morning dawned damp but soon welcome sunshine had returned to the skies. After breaking camp and packing away my still soggy gear, I headed east to the Connecticut River and a rendezvous with a rogue band of Adirondack Pirate Paddlers.  We launched from a very muddy Cow Bridge Brook in Hatfield...
Apparently New Hampshire and Vermont must have had some surplus mud this spring and were kind enough to send it on down.

The five of us paddled a swift-flowing Connecticut past Great Meadow and Scott Island where this eagle-tended nest was seen...

One can't help but wonder if eagles would be seen at all in the Pioneer Valley if not for Rachel Carson's 1962 book Silent Spring and the subsequent ban of DDT for agricultural purposes 10 years later.

Below that point we paddled by a closed-for-construction Elwell Park in Northampton and passed under Route 9 before heading towards the Mount Tom Range of hills to the south...
...and our takeout point at the Oxbow State Ramp in Easthampton.

Even though the weather wasn't ideal, it was nonetheless a great day, as is any, when time can be spent afloat with friends on a beautiful river...
 


2 comments:

Enid Karr said...

It's Old Clay Pipe Week on both sides of the Atlantic. I saw this post this morning http://londonist.com/2014/05/secrets-of-the-thames-foreshore.php and thought... wait, didn't Trashpaddler just find this pipe here in NEW England earlier this week?
As always, love your blog. Thanks for keeping our waters clean!

Suasco Al said...

Hello Enid, Good to hear from you and thanks for your kind comments. Thanks also for the great link to an almost exact mate to the clay pipe I found. Sounds like most of the clay pipes were manufactured on that side of the Atlantic.