Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sunday Patrol on Sudbury River to Weir Hill

After waiting for the early morning cold temperatures to moderate to near 40 degrees, I launched onto the lower Sudbury River at 11:00 am and began paddling upriver. The river has dropped quite a bit from the flood levels of the past 2 weeks. Encountered a good trash haul about 1/3 mile below the Sudbury Road bridge. Trash was in the water as well as on the bank near a pine grove landing on the river left. Landed just upstream of the bridge to store the first 36 pieces of trash below deck. One item was a cardboard box that was labelled Bud Lite Draught Cold Box. The now empty box had a nice large plastic bag that said "Don't Litter" inside. Somehow, I don't think the Bud people expected the box (and bag) to end up in the river.

About a 1/4 mile upstream of the bridge, I saw a red headed woodpecker, but he was gone before I could get a good look

Arriving at Fairhaven Bay, I began seeing large groups of ring-necked ducks. Sat just off of Brooke's Island while enjoying hot cocoa and a power bar. After passing under the new Lees Bridge, I saw many more ring-necked ducks all over the place. At Pantry Brook, the water level was still high enough to cross over the dam-like structure and enter the sanctuary. The staff guage showed a water level of 4.85.

Reaching my turnaround point at Weir Hill, I went ashore and enjoyed another cocoa break and then started the trip back downriver. Encountered the first outboard powered boat of the season. A couple of guys that probably launched at Sherman's Bridge and were heading to Fairhaven Bay for fishing. Later, I would see 4 other outboard boats, so it looks as though the fishing season is officially underway.

There is a nicely built beaver lodge on river left a few hundred yards downstream of Pantry Brook. This beaver is fairly active during the day and will readily tail slap warnings to passing boats.

After passing under Lees Bridge, I encountered another kayaker. A fellow named Richard paddling a Lincoln kayak. We chatted for a couple of minutes then went our separate ways. Only another hundred yards downriver on river left two white tailed does were spotted grazing on green grass out in an open meadow. They must have been hungry to be that exposed in mid-afternoon. They allowed me to approach fairly close, maybe 50 yards away, and I just had time to snap a photo before another outboard came along and spooked the deer. I watched them run to the top of a hill, where they stopped upon entering a cluster of trees.

I'm thinking this may have been my last paddle requiring pogies and footwarmers. Bring on those 50 degree temps!

By the time I reached my take-out location, at about 4 pm, my trash haul had reached 53 pieces. Twenty nine were recycleable containers and included a 1-gallon plastic water jug and a 5-gallon plastic pail.

YTD total = 694

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Concord River - Egg Rock to Ball's Hill

Arriving at Egg Rock early Tuesday afternoon, I decided to Trash Patrol the upper Concord River. The sunshine was brilliant, the breeze fairly light and the temperature was around 40 degrees.

It had been a while since I had been down this stretch and it was amazing to see how much trash the recent flood conditions had created. Picked up about 15 pieces of trash just upstream of the Old North Bridge and then about 30 pieces just downstream of Flint's Bridge or Monument Street. Landed my kayak at the Great Meadows Landing to transload collected trash to below deck. Hit another trash hotspot at the oxbow after Sawmill Brook.

At Ball's Hill, where the river gets much wider, I began to notice a building breeze. In fact, while not paddling, my boat was being blown upstream. It might have been the sea breeze the weather forecasters had mentioned in the morning. Enjoyed a cup of cocoa while floating about 20 feet from the riverside trail that runs through here.

Wildlife seen today: A red tailed hawk at the Calf Pasture that flew up into a tree, then spread its wings and tail feathers for several minutes. Never saw that behavior before. Perhaps it had prey it wanted to keep enveloped? At the North Bridge, I saw a broad winged hawk standing on the ground and wood ducks, mallards, Canada geese, and red winged blackbirds were all over the place.

Was thinking about Thoreau's boat trip on this river, his account of which became A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. It strikes me as ironic that a person today would be unable to make that trip because today's boat traveler doesn't have access to the technology that Thoreau did in 1839. The Middlesex Canal section from Talbot Mill to the Merrimack is long gone and all of the locks around falls upriver on the Merrimack are likewise gone.

Paddling back upriver, at Egg Rock, I saw a couple in a racing canoe heading into the Assabet River for a late day training run.

My trash haul for the day was 78 pieces of trash. Bottles and cans made up 61 and coffee cups, plastic bags, bait tubs etc. made up the balance. My YTD total stands at 641.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Assabet River in All Its Glory

Saturday afternoon saw another Trash Patrol on the Assabet River. With the windy conditions slowly declining as the day progressed, I waited till 3 pm to get out on the water. It was just as well that it was windy, as that made the Assabet River the logical choice. For me, the Assabet just doesn't get any better than it is right now. The water level is just about perfect. A paddler can get into all the backwaters that are usually off-limits and getting up past the Pine Street bridge is relatively easy. There is plenty of depth to dig into with one's paddle.

For a change, there were other paddlers on the river today. Saw 2 guys paddling solo canoes and another 2 guys in a double canoe. All of them looked to be training for the upcoming canoe racing season.

Trash recovery went well and my drybag filled up with plastic bags, coffee cups, and a trash bag full of paper towels etc. Once the drybag was full, I started decorating my deck with a variety of plastic bottles. Quite a few were stuck behind branches just a little downstream of the Thoreau School. This made a good spot to turn around and enjoy a quick ride down to Egg Rock and then back to my takeout location.

The last few miles were nice with the wind falling down and the sun getting low in the late afternoon sky. Near Route 2 I noticed some bushes were turning a reddish color and near Dove Rock, some plants, perhaps crocuses, have sprouted on the river bank.

The wildlife seen were mostly wood ducks, mallards, birds, a turkey vulture, and several muskrats. I kept an eye out for the turtle I saw earlier in the week near Spencer Brook, but he was nowhere to be seen. Naturally, since this time I had a camera.

My trash count for the day was 36 bringing my YTD total to 563.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tuesday afternoon proved nice for a trash patrol on the lower Assabet River from Egg Rock to Nashoba Brook and back. I did not see one piece of ice! The recent flooding provided a new crop of floatable trash stuck behind a good many snags. It's funny how anything that makes you stop and take a closer look reveals things you never would have seen. Approaching the mouth of Spencer Brook, I spied a plastic bottle in amongst the branches. As I paddled in closer, I saw a lone turtle that looked different than the usual painted turtles. Unlike the painted turtles this one didn't plop into the water when I approached. It actually let me get very close. It had a humped carapace, was a little larger than the painted turtles and had a reddish tint on the top of its head. My hope is that what I was looking at was my first Blandings Turtle.
Saw quite a few wood ducks today as well.
After passing under route 2, I needed to land my boat and store the surprisingly large amount of trash I had collected below deck. Once again, I recovered a quart container filled with used motor oil. I had 55 empty containers on board when I re-launched and paddled to just downstream of Nashoba Brook. There I encountered an 8-gallon white trash bag filled with styrofoam shipping peanuts, snagged on a branch. This bag had to remain on deck all the way back which made it a little awkward paddling.
Reaching my take-out, I had 59 empty containers plus the full containers of motor oil and shipping peanuts. A nice little haul and brings my YTD total to 527 mts.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Spring Patrol to Pantry Brook

Yesterday afternoon's trash patrol from the lower Sudbury River to Pantry Brook really had the feel of springtime. It was sort of like seeing spring's opening act where different actors make their appearances on cue. Red winged blackbirds were all over the place, busy establishing their territory. Approaching Fairhaven Bay, a blue heron flew overhead, then once in the bay, the same large gang of common mergansers were scattered about in smaller groups. Perhaps they had split up for group exercises? The mergansers would take flight as soon as I was within about 100 yards. At the entrance to the bay there was a large red tailed hawk and leaving the bay there was a large broad winged hawk.

Upstream of Lee's Bridge (Rt. 117), it was huge numbers of Canada geese on the water, on the shore, and in chevron flight in the sky (heading north). Muskrats were busy munching while sitting on any remaining pieces of ice.

Reaching the mouth of Pantry Brook, it was nice to see the flood conditions allowing easy access to the impoundment behind the small dam structure there. Passing over the submerged steel barrier, I noted the staff guage read 7.45 . Sitting there with the whole impoundment speading out before my kayak, I felt priviledged for it is not often that such easy access is available to this area. Using my binoculars, I watched what I believe were buffleheads with large white flags on the sides of their heads. Occasionally they would dive below the surface. Of course there were other types of ducks on both sides of the impoundment and in the sky overhead. It was a very happening place 'duckwise'.

Heading back downriver, after passing a beaver that gave me a tail slap, I stopped to work on a stuck sleeve zipper. While attending the zipper, I was aware of nearly continuous tail slapping. finally turning around to see that I was only 25 yards from the beaver's lodge. Most likely, there are little beavers in the lodge and that had the parent beaver very concerned with my presence.

A half mile above Lee's Bridge, a large oak tree rising out of the flood had a snoozing raccoon wedged into a crook about 30 feet above the water. I envied the view he had from his bedroom!

The sound of rushing water could be heard entering the river from Farrar Pond. Also the little brook just upstream of Martha's Point was flowing pretty well. And the air, did I mention it actually felt warm?

Trash was fairly typical. Beer cans, Dunkin Donuts styrofoam cups, a couple of glass bottles and some plastic water and juice bottles. Two unusual items were a full quart container of diesel fuel additive (seal still intact) and a full can of marking spray paint. These two items were downstream of the Lee's Bridge construction zone and probably came from the ongoing work activity. Ended up with 24 empty containers. YTD = 466

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Heath's Bridge Area Coughs Up More Trash

A perfect afternoon for a Trash Patrol from the lower Sudbury River to Lee's Bridge and back. The flood conditions keep floating more trash out of the bushes along the shore. Recovered another 47 containers and had them stored below deck before passing under the Sudbury Road bridge (Heath's Bridge). Upon reaching Fairhaven Bay, it was clear paddling across and up to Lee's Bridge. Only a few areas of ice in the shadiest and shallowest coves.
The new version of the 1790 Lee's bridge is complete and this is the first time I saw cars driving over it. The new bridge has ample clearance, even in such high water, whereas the temporary bridge required just a little leaning forward to insure no head to 'I' beam contact.
Heading back downriver, I encountered another runaway boat. This one is a 'WaterTender 9.4' and is located about 1/2 mile below Lee's Bridge on the river right.
Wildlife observed today were several red tailed hawks, one mink, some common mergansers, wood ducks, Canada geese, and some red winged blackbirds.
By the time I reached my takeout spot, my trash total had reached 62 for the day. YTD = 442

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Trash Patrol to Fairhaven Bay

This afternoon was ideal for a paddle up the Sudbury River to see if Fairhaven Bay was still iced over. My ears were scanning for the unmistakeable sound of a red-winged blackbird. The river was very high allowing access to areas usually off limits. Got fairly busy with trash just downstream of the Sudbury Road bridge. Looked like the remnants from the shorefishermen that drop litter all over the ground either side of the bridge . A lot of bait tubs, plastic bags, bottles and cans. A couple of unusual items were a fuel filter cartridge and a 5 liter keg of Heineken. I had to use the work platform under the bridge as a staging area to get things stored below deck.

Upstream of Sudbury Road, in the bushes, I picked up an inverted clear bottle that looks fairly old. It is a Garrett Food Products, Virginia Dare bottle 1 9/16 pts. The lettering is embossed and there is a logo that has an American eagle, arrows, and a leaf.

Approaching Fairhaven Bay, I encountered 3 mute swans? They took flight and circled back over me producing that whirring sound with their wings. Entering the bay, I saw a large group of common mergansers. I counted 60 of them lined up in the sun. Also saw a lone green-winged teal, that moved 5 ' upriver, than 5' downriver over and over again.

Landed on the small island and could see that the main channel of river is open all the way across to where the river enters at the southern end. There was actually a guy ice fishing on the west side which is very shallow under the ice.

After a 'mug up' of hot cocoa, I launched into a now cool breeze and was glad I brought my pogies and and a warm hat. A beaver gave me a tail-slap and submerged only to re-surface much closer to my boat and give me another tail slap. Deciding that it must be too early for the red-winged blackbirds, I popped in my earbuds and was listening to music on the way back. A broad-winged hawk flew overhead upstream of Sudbury Road, then just downstream of Sudbury Road, on river right were 2 male red-winged blackbirds about 100 yards apart. Turned off the music and savored the sound of their call which hasn't been heard in many a month. They told me that spring is here. Saw two more red-wings after passing under route 2. Just before route 2, near Clamshell Bank, there was a very fat beaver up on the ice busily engaged in munching on a branch. With the sound of the nearby traffic, he never heard me go by. It must have been one tasty branch!

My haul for the afternoon was 70 pieces of trash. 45 were bottles and cans the rest were plastic bags and bait tubs. YTD = 380

Monday, March 3, 2008

Paddling Back in Time to Musketaquid Village

Yesterday's unlimited sunshine provided all the incentive I needed to embark on another river trash patrol. For the first time in months, there was no ice to deal with at my launch site. At High Noon, I arrived at the Egg Rock time portal where the following is etched in stone:


Before the white men came, say 1634, Egg Rock was here, the rivers were here, Nashawtuck Hill was up behind Egg Rock situated between the two rivers and in that area and along the banks lived the Indian owners of this placed known as Musketaquid (means grass grown river). According to Dr. Lemuel Shattuck's History of Concord written in 1835, the local sachem was a man named Tahattawan and it is said that his lodge was located near the base of Nashawtuck Hill. His people were in an alliance with another group based in Medford. The alliance was ruled over by a woman called Squaw Sachem and she and her present husband Wibbacowet, a pow wow or shaman, also maintained a lodge at Nashawtuck Hill, which they used when in the area. Squaw Sachem was the widow of the great Massachusetts leader Nanepashemet.

Tahattawan had a daughter, Tissansquaw and she was married to a young sagamore named Waban (his name meant The Wind). Other individuals were Tantamous, Nimrod, Nepanet, Natanquatick, and Carte. In reading accounts by Shattuck and also Alfred Sereno Hudson's 1904 History of Concord, the above people are mentioned as living here when the white men came.

From what I have read, they had a fairly nice existence. They grew corn, squash, and beans in large quantities, harvested fish and shellfish from the rivers and ponds, and hunted game. In the spring, they would travel to area waterfalls where large numbers of families would congregate to reap the annual alewife, salmon and shad migrations. Perhaps, they paddled their canoes downriver to Pawtucket Falls in present day Lowell, or perhaps upriver to the falls at what is now Saxonville. I have also read accounts suggesting that they sometimes went overland to the falls at Watertown where tidewater and therefore salt water was reached. Watertown may have been where they spent their summers. After a long cold winter, the people of Musketaquid must have looked forward to these gatherings as a way to celebrate surviving to see another spring, introducing newborns, and remembering those that didn't survive the winter. In John Perdergast's The Bend in the River, the following is mentioned in regards to the spring gatherings at Pawtucket Falls: "Along with the fishing, there were festivities, competitions, marriages and other ceremonies at these sites."

At any rate, I did not encounter any of them on the water yesterday, but they were in my thoughts as I, once again, ascended the Assabet River due to windy conditions. I suspect Waban would have liked the breezy conditions. Dove Rock and Willow Island were still submerged though the river's water level had dropped from what it was two weeks ago. Paddling under the Pine Street bridge, I noted the staff gauge read 3.80. Upon reaching the large blowdown near Westvale Meadow, I found the channel on river left was dry, so there would be no paddling to Damonmill today. I found a calm eddy to take a cocoa/powerbar break before turning around and heading downriver.

Wildlife observed were wood ducks, mallards, Canada geese, a bufflehead, robins, and a cardinal. I'm still waiting to hear my first red-winged blackbird. When I do, I'll know that spring has sprung!

By the time I arrived at my takeout site, my drybag was full and my deck was decorated with assorted pieces of trash. Nearly half of what I recovered was plastic bags stuck on branches. My count for the day was 28 pices/containers. YTD= 310