Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Concord River's Lost Byways

It was a perfect morning for heading down the Concord River from the Bedford Boat Launch.  Getting on the water before 8 am allowed me plenty of time to travel down to the dam at North Billerica and back.

Very little trash was encountered between the Route 225 and Route 3 bridges.  One interesting find was this 38 year old beer can still saluting our country's Bi-Centennial...

The newest bridge along the way was this modern-looking structure carrying a busy Route 3 over the river...

Just a few clicks down from Rt. 3 are the sleepy remains of the former Middlesex Turnpike...
Once a busy road running in a nearly straight line between East Cambridge and Tyngsboro, it saw its last paying customer in 1846.

North Billerica was reached just before lunchtime...
Here a portage would be necessary in order to go further downstream on the Concord.  However, if I'd arrived here only 164 years earlier I would have had 2 other options:  Enter the Middlesex Canal on the west side of the river and proceed 6 miles to the Merrimack above Pawtucket Falls (the route the Thoreau brothers took), or enter the same canal on the river's east side and travel 22 miles to tidewater at Charlestown near Sullivan Square.

One of the more interesting features of the Middlesex Canal was formerly located here.  It was a floating tow path which allowed horses or oxen to pull their canal boats across the river.  This narrow peninsula of land brought the tow path out into the river where terra firma ended and the floating tow path began...
My boat is sitting where the floating tow path was, and the photo above shows the peninsula's end.

From this point the horse or oxen would be walking upon the floating tow path to reach the other side (to the left of the brick buildings)...
For more information about the floating tow path check out this article by Bill Gerber which appeared in the Middlesex Canal Association's publication Towpath Topic Sept. 2003.

Before leaving the area, I followed the narrow peninsula to where it started and found a short stretch of the old canal running up to where it once passed under Rogers Street...
...following this route another 22 miles would have once brought me to the banks of the Charles River in Charlestown.

After lunch I returned upriver with occasional help from a friendly tailwind.  Near the halfway point a pleasant break was enjoyed at the Sudbury Valley Trustees Ralph Hill Homestead just upriver from Route 3.

My trash haul...
There were 33 recyclable containers (9 redeemable) and 38 pieces of miscellaneous rubbish which included 10 bait tubs and a bright yellow duck.  YTD = 2760

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Over 13 miles of paddling. Nice.

Erik Eckilson said...

There was also a towpath bridge in Woonsocket where the Blackstone Canal crossed the Blackstone River. As far as I know it was constructed like a conventional bridge. Great writ-up.

Suasco Al said...

Thanks Erik, Both canals were ingenious transportation solutions. It's fortunate that many sections of the Blackstone Canal still exist and can even be paddled.