Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Upper Concord River - Egg Rock to Ball's Hill

This afternoon, I trash patrolled the Concord River from Egg Rock to Ball's Hill and back. Conditions were ideal. Trash was sparse until I reached the snag below Saw Mill Brook where the river makes a 90 degree turn to the right. There I was able to recover 15 empty containers in short order. Empty pint bottle of Jack Daniels, several 'nip' bottles, beer cans and bottles, and a "Monster" energy drink container. My deck was now looking fairly colorful for the trip back upriver. BTW, there is a tire just downstream of this bend. It's too big for my craft to safely hold, but someone with an open boat could handle it.
The stretch of river between Great Meadows Landing and Ball's Hill is probably the best for seeing Cardinal flowers. This must have been a banner year for them.
My turn-around spot was the very large beaver lodge at the downstream end of Ball's Hill
A fair amount of traffic on the river today. Everything from pontoon boats to a motorized canoe/kayak combo.
Work on Flint's Bridge continues, though no major changes seen yet.
At my takeout location, I counted 22 empty containers bringing my YTD total to 1695

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sudbury River - Rt. 62 to Weir Hill & Back

I launched this morning at 5:30 and paddled upstream on the Sudbury River through a low lying fog that shrouded the water's surface. It was like being in another world as my boat and I glided through the wispy mist. There was no wind to speak of, temperatures were ideal, and with some ethereal music emanating from my earbuds, I could not have been in a happier place.
Reaching the Sudbury Road bridge, I recovered some shore-fishermen generated trash on the river right. A couple of empty bait tubs and 2 crude fishing reels consisting of plastic bottles with about 50' of fishing line attached to them. Just upstream of the bridge were a few beer cans.
I reached Fairhaven Bay in time to watch the sun rise on the eastern horizon where the shoreline is lowest. A lone mute swan was in the middle of the bay. Crossing the bay, I observed a new swath has been cut down the hillside on the bay's west shore. Another upscale homeowner decided he/she needed an unfettered view of the bay. I am not at all surprised that of all the houses near the bay, the one that best blends in with the surroudings is the most modest. On the bay's north end is a small red house whose owners have resisted the temptation to cut a swath. Soon enough, the diciduous trees will drop their leaves anyways and the swaths will look rather silly.
At the south entrance to the bay, I spotted a small heron scurry into the underbrush. Blue herons, as usual, were standing sentinel at regular intervals.
Continuing upriver after leaving Fairhaven Bay, I began to notice a sudsy foam on the river's surface. This foam was coming out of Pantry Brook. Didn't notice any suds when I was at this spot last Wednesday.
Reaching Weir Hill, I landed there and took a short refueling break. The sun began to disappear as clouds spread across the sky. Still there was no wind. Heading back downriver, I saw a large group of red-winged blackbirds and it seemed their red wing patches were much duller than they were in springtime. Between Weir Hill and Fairhaven, there were 6 boats, each containing 2 fishermen looking to hook some bass perhaps.
As I entered Fairhaven Bay at the south end, I saw the small heron, mentioned earlier, in flight. He was a stocky little guy and managed to land/perch at the top of a dead tree. With my binoculars, I observed him for several minutes and noted how the black at the top of his head would stand up, then lay down. His chestnut colored neck would also stretch and contract. He made no call that I could hear. I believe he is a green-backed heron but wouldn't bet money on it.
As I arrived at my takeout location, the sunny skies had returned and my deck had 14 empty containers bringing my YTD total to 1673

Friday, August 22, 2008

Assabet River - Egg Rock to Westvale & Return

Taking advantage of this afternoon's beautiful weather I trash patrolled the Assabet River from Egg Rock up to Westvale and back. The Assabet makes a nice choice on a day like today for it offers a considerable amount of shade.
River levels have dropped quickly over the last week so many of the rocks are beginning to reappear.
Approaching the mouth of Nashoba Brook, I recovered 3 double-tube epoxy sets that might have come from the construction at the Warner Pond dam.
Reaching the MBTA Commuter Rail bridge in Concord Junction, the river begins to present the paddler with a series of obstacles to navigate. Most are due to trees that have blown down.
At Pine Street, I was surprised to find that all of the bridge supports are gone and the river is wide open for the first time in years. I happily paddled through and negotiated the series of obstacles behind Thoreau School and Cousin's Field. At the large blowdown below Westvale, I was surprised, once again, by being able to paddle the narrow gap at river right with no trouble. This was the first time I was able to get through here without using the river left channel that is only full at near flood stage. When I made the turn to the right, I could see the Route 62 bridge at Damondale, but had to turn around just below the Damondale sluiceway due to another tree across the river.
As usual, the trip back downriver was an easy paddle and provided many encounters with blue herons, Canada geese and a curious doe downstream of Dodge Rock. The Cardinal flowers continue to put on their show.
My trash count for the day was 14 empty containers bringing my YTD total to 1659.

Sudbury River - Rt. 27 to Pantry Brook & Return

This past Wednesday afternoon, I launched my boat at the Rt. 27/River Road access and paddled north into a fresh northwest breeze. This refreshing breeze has been a stranger around these parts for a couple of months now and I, for one, have missed it.
Shortly after passing under Rt. 27, I found myself following the ribbon-like channel as it winds through a large marsh area. The Native Americans called the river "Musketaquid" and it was believed to have meant "grass grown river". This section of river certainly fits the name more than most other sections I've seen. There is no discernible riverbank or anything close to solid ground. Open water gives way to acres of buttonbush, purple loosestrife, and grasses of numerous types. It stays this way for about 2 miles, where just above Sherman's Bridge Rd. the marsh area narrows and there is a riverbank again.
Trash in this section was very sparse. In fact, paddling to the mouth of Pantry Brook and back yielded only 6 empty containers.
I encountered 3 canoes and 1 kayak. Two of the canoes were using electric trolling motors and the couples in each canoe looked to be enjoying a relaxing afternoon on the river.
Returning back to my launch site, I was able to round-up 10 empty containers from the bushes around the boat ramp bringing my total for the day to 16 and YTD total to 1645.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Trash Patrol Assabet-Egg Rock to Near Westvale

This morning, a little after daybreak, I ascended the Assabet River in search of flotsam/trash. Between Egg Rock and Dodge Rock, I recovered 13 empty containers, mostly plastic bottles. Reaching Concord Junction, my count was 24. Just downstream of the commuter rail bridge, I paused for some re-fueling and dug out my hand-saw for use in cutting a swath through the upper limbs of a downed tree blocking the river just upstream of the bridge. The wood was thinnest on the river-left side (heading upstream), so I cut my swath there. While making one of my last cuts, a large brown spider dropped into my lap, and then scurried forward to where my feet reside in the cockpit. I found this development rather disconcerting and realized that imminent action was required. The boat was quickly maneuvered into an area shallow enough for me to exit and a near frantic search began to locate the stowaway. Natuarally, the spider had found a spot just beyond my reach and the situation required the use of a flashlight and paddle handle to resolve. Unfortunately, the spider was dispatched during the extraction.
Once again, moving upriver, a little faster now, thanks to some adrenline, I soon reached what's left of the Pine Street bridge. The two bridge spans are gone leaving only the mid-channel support, which looks to be in the process of being removed as part of a bridge replacement project.
Having paddled past the bridge, I soon heard the call of an osprey and saw the large bird in a tree behind the Thoreau School. It swooped down from its perch and flew upriver while continuously emitting its unique call.
After passing some other recent blowdowns, I finally reached the large blowdown just upstream of a large rock near Westvale. This was my turnaround point and I began heading back downriver. Approaching the Pine Street bridge, from the upstream side, I noticed the construction crew has one of the "Bridge Closed" signs that were posted for automobile drivers attached to the center support and facing upstream. The sign has been crudely modified. Instead of "Bridge Closed - Seek Alt. Routes" it now says "Bridge Closed - Seek Alt. River". If the construction crew intends to close the river to navigation, I recommend that they install a sign on the downstream side of the bridge, as well, to avoid confusion.
On the trip back to my takeout location, I recovered another 10 empty containers bringing my total for the day to 34 and YTD total to 1629. Some of the more interesting items were a plastic quart container half filled with motor oil, an empty algicide 'pool care' container, and a small container of liquid trout bait guaranteed to "drive trout crazy"!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Recent Photos of Wildlife and Wild Flowers

Cardinal Flowers - Sudbury River
Baby beaver sleeping - Concord River
Baby beaver sleeping - Concord River

Deer at south end of Fairhaven Bay

Monday, August 11, 2008

Cochituate Portal - Between Middle & South Lakes

Some Recent SUASCO Trashy Photos

Paddling for a Gilded Clamshell in Buzzards Bay

Yesterday morning, under sunny skies, approximately 85 participants gathered at Zecco Marine in Wareham for the 6th annual Bird Island Challenge. There was a good mix of boats that included kayaks, surfskis, canoes, sliding seat/outrigger rowed boats, and several whaleboats. One participant mentioned that the 7-man whaleboat he helped row weighed 3500 lbs! It must be tough to get that much weight moving and even tougher to turn it at the marker boats. Almost makes me feel guilty having a boat that weighs in at 40 lbs.
The event starts at the Narrows where the Wareham River enters the northwest corner of Buzzards Bay and boats head south to their respective turnaround points. Long Beach, Great Hill, or Bird Island. Entrants select the distance they want to cover. The choices are 3-miles, 6-miles, or 12 miles with Bird Island being the furthest point. Yesterday, sea conditions were mild and there was a only a slight breeze to be had between Sippican Neck and Bird Island. Rounding Bird Island, I noticed a few terns on the rocks. The little island with its little lighthouse provides an ideal nesting spot for them. Looking to my portside, I can see Falmouth's shoreline 3 or 4 miles distance, across the bay.
After retracing my course back to the Narrows, I received my 'Gilded Clam' medal which all participants are awarded, and joined with others for some tasty Mexican food in a large shady boat shed.
This event gets bigger and better each year. In addition to providing participants a great time on Buzzards Bay, all proceeds are used to insure that families will have access to the programs at the Gleason Family YMCA, regardless of their financial situation.
BTW, I did not see any buzzards yesterday and have heard that a Pilgrim incorrectly named the bay 'Buzzards Bay' after seeing an osprey, which he mistook for a buzzard. Sounds perfectly logical in a weird way and left me wondering, what did the folks that lived near, paddled upon, and fished its waters for thousands of years call this great bay? Hmmmm.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Sudbury River -Stone Bridge Area to Saxonville Dam

This afternoon, I accessed the Sudbury River at the Little Farms Road boat launch in Framingham. It was the first time I used this launchsite and found it to be ideal. My objective today was to recover some of the substantial trash I saw downstream of Stonebridge Road on my last trash patrol.
Heading downstream with the river's swift current made for easy paddling but required turning my boat around and into the current each time I opted to recover an empty container. Between the Aqueduct and the 90 degree turn the river makes downstream of the stone 5 arch bridge, I recovered 55 empty containers. I turned around and headed back to Little Farms Road for transloading this first trash haul to my car's trunk. Then, I relaunched and headed upstream towards Saxonville. Not too far from the launch site, I paddled past what looks to be a second Aqueduct. I believe that this one passes under the river. This section of the river was a little challenging due to the numerous tree branches hanging down nearly to the river's surface. A route had to be selected than maintained against the steady current. Reaching the mouth of Cochituate Brook, I saw several of the large carp that Ron McAdow mentions in his excellent river guidebook "the Concord Sudbury and Assabet Rivers". The brook looked inviting and I was surprised it allowed my boat and I to ascend it for approximately50 yards or so. Returning to the brook's mouth, I noticed about 6 submerged tires that almost look as though they were placed there deliberately. Heading upriver once again, I passed under Concord Street and the flood control apparatus on the river right. Here the river makes a sweeping turn to the right. The left bank is a steep hillside and the right bank has a man-made wall of riprap. With the current getting faster by the yard, I finally spotted the mill buildings, smokestack, and the concrete retaining wall just below the dam. This marks the spot where the river's 'Wild & Scenic' designation ends. It was also a good place for me to let the swift current take my bow and send me back downstream. Going back down only required steering.
Wildlife observed today were a great blue heron, the carp mentioned earlier, and a musquash. Fairly sure I heard a belted kingfisher and a red-tailed hawk.
Arriving back at the take-out, I had another 15 empties. These were combined with the earlier batch and 3 empties from the launchsite for a day's total of 73. YTD total = 1595
Heading home, I encountered more dark clouds and more thunderstorms. This repetitive weather pattern reminds me of that Bill Murray movie, "Groundhog Day".

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sudbury River - River Rd. to Aqueduct & Return

This afternoon, I launched my boat at River Road in Sudbury and headed upriver under mostly cloudy skies. The temperature and humidity were much lower and there was a little touch of fall in the air. My intentions were to revisit this section of river and make it a little further upstream than I did last week, and get in a little distance training for an upcoming saltwater event on Sunday.
Trash was fairly light and I only had 12 empty containers by the time I reached the Heard Pond outlet. This is where the river gets narrow, there are numerous bends, and the current is much more apparent. This is also where the cardinal flowers start appearing. In the area between the Allen Morgan Avian Study sign and the overhead power lines, my trash count went from 12 to 28 and my deck was pretty well full with plastic bottles and beer cans.
The power line crossing was the point at which I turned around last week. Today, I kept paddling upriver, noting that most of the usual obstacles are well submerged.
Though almost everything is in bloom, the cardinal flowers are the real 'show' in this stretch. There are more here than on the Concord near Great Meadows. In some places, they line both sides of the river. It is quite a transition to go from paddling where the river has wide marshlands on both sides to where one is now looking at a 20 foot high sandbank on the river's right side. From this sandbank area to the old stone bridge I noted a substantial amount of trash that will have to wait for the next patrol. I paddled around the right side of the old bridge, through where the missing portal used to be, and then proceeded under the Stone Bridge Road bridge and up to the Aqueduct which crosses above the river in a graceful arch. This large pipe carries water from the Wachusett Reservoir to Greater Boston.
At this location, I turned around and headed back to my starting point. Aside from a few guys fishing at Pelham Island Road, I saw not a soul and could easily have imagined myself to be paddling in a remote area.
Hopefully, today's paddle helped to prepare me to cover 13 miles in this coming Sunday's 'Bird Island Challenge'. This event is held annually in Buzzards Bay and helps to raise funds for the Gleason Family YMCA in Wareham. This link has more info:

The event's founder is Richard Wheeler, who once paddled a kayak from Newfoundland to Cape Cod, retracing the migratory route of the great auk. The story of his voyage became a Nova television program and can be found at the following link:

Wildlife observed today were 2 large hawks near the high banks, red-winged blackbirds, eastern kingbirds, blue-winged teal, great blue herons, painted turtles, and a musquash.
My trash count for the day was 28 (23 of which were recycleable) bringing YTD total to 1522.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sudbury/Concord Patrol - Fairhaven Bay to Ball's Hill

This morning's sunrise trash patrol of the Sudbury River was a little different than usual. I was fortunate to have the company of my daughter paddling alongside for the trip up to Fairhaven Bay and return. This was her first time seeing Fairhaven and an osprey made a flyover appearance to honor the occasion. We also saw a few cardinal flowers in the Conantum area and numerous great blue herons.
Returning from Fairhaven Bay, we picked up 10 pieces of trash. One unusual find was a can of coconut juice (product of Thailand). Heather came across 2 plastic containers tied to long pieces of monofilament fishing line. We ended up recovering 3 of these crude fishing reels.
Later in the morning, I returned solo and patrolled the remainder of the Sudbury to Egg Rock, then down the Concord River to Ball's Hill and return. On this stretch, I picked up another 24 empty containers. The river was bustling with canoes, kayaks, and some fishermen's power boats thrown in for good measure. Water levels were high enough to allow plenty of room for everyone.
At my takeout location, I encountered a longtime river paddler from Concord. Larry introduced himself and shared with me some of the unique canoe designs he has developed over the years. Many of his boats have been donated to the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY. Larry was involved with some of the first fiberglass canoe designs.
Driving away from the launch, I could see the clouds building in elevation which has been a recurring theme this summer. My total empty container count for the day was 34 bringing my YTD to 1494.