Sunday, November 29, 2015

Deerfield River's Harriman Reservoir

Got to work off some of that Thanksgiving turkey yesterday while paddling the waters of Harriman Reservoir (aka Lake Whitingham) said to be the largest body of water entirely located within the state of Vermont.
 
I rendezvoused there with Capt'n Dangerous who drove down from the Adirondacks and we launched our kayaks from the Oxbow Boat Launch in Wilmington, VT.  The launch is located at the lake's northern end where the north and east branches of the Deerfield River converge before flowing southward.

We paddled down the serpentine lake 7 miles to the Harriman Dam which, when built in 1923, created the lake...
Prior to the Harriman Dam being built a small railroad hugged the Deerfield River's east shore serving the now-submerged communities at Davis Bridge and Mountain Mills before reaching Wilmington at the end of the line.  Officially it was the Hoosac Tunnel and Wilmington Railroad but was affectionately referred to as the "Hoot, Toot, and Whistle".  Rail service to Wilmington was considered important enough back in the 20s that ten miles of trackage was re-routed to the west side of the new lake.  In 1934 the first organized rail enthusiasts trip in the Unites States brought passengers along this route up to Wilmington.  Only 3 years later in 1937 the trackage to Wilmington was abandoned.  Today much of the abandoned west side roadbed survives and is incorporated into the Catamount Trail, while a short section of the original roadbed survives within Wilmington.  This website has some great historical information regarding the "Hoot, Toot, and Whistle.

Yesterday's weather was very late November-like, being cloudy and cool with occasional rain showers.  Despite the less than ideal conditions, I was still surprised in not seeing even one other boat on the 2,000 acre lake...

 


Early in the paddle a bald eagle was sighted at Castle Hill...
 ...where a picnic area and boat launch are located...

Ultimately we arrived at the Harriman Dam during one of the day's brief rain showers...
Our bows are pointing towards an overflow structure called the "Morning Hole" which conducts spillage into a funnel-like concrete tube dropping some 20 + feet down into a tunnel under the dam.  One site called it a "Glory Hole" which may or may not have been a typo!
TransCanada Hydro New England operates the Harriman Reservoir/Dam as part of an eight facility system they run along a 65-mile stretch of the Deerfield River.  Of the 86 megawatts of electricity their Deerfield River generating network can produce, 41 megawatts come from the Harriman Station.

Turning about at the dam we began heading back to Wilmington passing a clothing-optional swimming area known as "The Ledges" along the way.  No need for averting eyes at this time of the year.

We arrived back at the lake's north end with less than an hour of daylight remaining...

Harriman Reservoir is a beautiful body of water even at this time of year.  I suspect the best time, however, to explore this lake is either before or after the peak power-boat season.  Sure was a peaceful spot yesterday.

Trash was nowhere to be found except a few pieces near the boat ramp...

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