Saturday, May 15, 2021

Assabet River Eaglet

 

Seeing a recently hatched eaglet was a great way to end the week yesterday on the Assabet River.  I'd seen a pair of eagles hanging around the nest last year and apparently they decided to make a go of it...with success.

One eagle parent stood watch...

...occasionally checking on things...

Only one eaglet was seen by me when it raised its head above the nest.


The day before I joined my friend Bill in scouting a section of the Sudbury River as he was prospecting for a future RICKA paddling club trip.  We launched from Kellogg Street in Framingham and paddled a stretch of the Sudbury above and below the Mass Pike.  The trip downriver required one short portage of the Fenwick Street Dam...

... and allowed us to proceed where the river widens below the turnpike...
...eventually arriving at the mill and dam at Saxonville...

Once back at Kellogg Street we headed upriver a bit beyond Route 9 passing along the way "Riverhaven"...
...where this fisherman shows his catch...


Trash gathered up along the way...

...



 


Saturday, May 8, 2021

Fine Time on the Assabet

 

The Assabet River in West Concord, MA couldn't have looked better than it did yesterday.  It was a splendid spring morning.  The bridge pictured above carries the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail across the river.

The first piece of trash encountered, "Clown Shoes" beer, seemed to set the tone...

...and was followed by a motocross rider who'd lost his bike...

A pair of wood ducks with the male in clownish plumage...

I eventually worked my way upriver to Damon Mill's tail race where I found refuge from the current.  After following the canal beneath Route 62, I emerged to find the mill's name in granite framed by the wooden railings of a foot bridge...

...and past the foot bridge found myself gazing skyward at the mill's facade...

Once back downriver I couldn't resist venturing up Nashoba Brook to the outlets of Warner's Pond...

Later I watched an outbound MBTA commuter train cross over the Assabet before stopping at West Concord...

This bridge hadn't seen any scheduled trains for 2 months while a new positive train control system was being installed.  While weekday service resumed last Monday weekend service remains shutdown.

Trash gathered up...

The motocross rider and an orange marker buoy were the oddest finds of the day.  The buoy featured some interesting pvc piping...
...with none of the joints having been cemented.  I'm wondering if the buoy may have been used as a stabilizing float (sponson) for someone's fishing canoe or kayak. 


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Pondering Herd Immunity on Heard Pond

 

Monday morning's paddle upriver on the Sudbury River brought me to Heard Pond's most prominent point.  Thanks to recent rains the passage between the river and the pond was wide open and required no bushwhacking on my part.

The pond was peaceful and, aside from this cormorant...

...I had the place to myself.  It was an ideal spot for pondering the question as to whether or not we'll attain "herd immunity" here in Massachusetts. I think there's a good chance we'll get there.


  A woodchuck was later encountered enjoying some of the morning's unpredicted sunshine...

...before retreating into the safety of his riverside digs...

Earlier, while heading upriver, I visited a slough near the Greenways where several beaver dams...
...helped to satisfy this tree swallow's housing needs...

Further upriver a blue heron utilized a beaver lodge for its vantage point...

On my way back downriver I noticed what I at first thought were fishermen at the Pelham Island Road bridge.  Hearing a good sized splash I figured one of them might have a carp on his line.  However as I got closer I noticed they had no fishing poles or reels.  Each guy was throwing out an object on the end of a rope and then retrieving it...leading me to believe they were magnet fishing which seems to be a new variation of traditional metal detecting.  

My non-metallic fishing gathered up this bunch...




Saturday, May 1, 2021

Budding Time Along Local Rivers

 

Got out on the water a couple of times this past week...Tuesday on the Sudbury River and Friday on the Assabet River (photo above). 

These days just about everything alongside the river is budding out including this stand of sugar maples alongside the Sudbury River in Concord, MA...

...just downstream from Lee's Bridge...

Cloudy, warm, and calm conditions prevailed on the Sudbury on Tuesday morning.  Perfect conditions for this napping beaver...


...and a red-winged blackbird seemingly deep in thought...


Friday morning found fast clearing conditions on the Assabet River in Stow, MA following Thursday's drenching rains.  Several white-tailed deer were seen bounding across an open field perhaps trying to dry out...


...and a riverside turkey got a little territorial flying past me within just a few feet...


Trash was on the light side...




On the way home a brief stop was made at the Powdermill Dam where the rain swollen Assabet made the two-step drop...

By late morning gale-force gusts of wind had developed ushering out April 2021...a month that seemed more like a March to me.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Paddling Trip To The Last Green Valley

 

Traveled into the Connecticut section of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor for 3 days of paddling earlier this Earth Day week.  The National Park Service describes the Heritage Corridor's significance as: "spanning 35 towns in northeastern Connecticut and south-central Massachusetts, The Last Green Valley is surprisingly rural and uniquely historic.  With 1,100 square miles that are still 77% forests and farms the pastoral landscape is interspersed with powerful rivers, mill villages, and vibrant town centers.  'Green by day and dark by night', The Last Green Valley is the last stretch of dark night sky in the coastal sprawl between Boston and Washington, DC."  

So, on Monday morning I hit the road equipped with a copy of Paddle Guide for the Quinebaug, Willimantic, and Shetucket River Water Trails and followed Route 395 south from Massachusetts.  This fairly mellow highway parallels the French River staying to the eastward of it.  Leaving 395 in the village of North Grosvenor Dale I got a brief look at the French River at Blain Rd...


...just before arriving at West Thompson Lake, a US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) flood control project built in the 1960s on the Quinebaug River about 6 river miles below the Massachusetts line. 

The flood control project required the taking of many homes and farms in West Thompson.  The USACE was successful in getting all the landowners to leave their properties, except for one...Alice Ramsdell who refused to leave her family's farm.  She literally 'held her ground' and ultimately was allowed to stay on her farm until her death in 1994.  Because I'm a railfan, I usually check my collection of railroad history magazines before visiting a new area.  While doing so I came across a very interesting article in a September 1982 issue of The New England States Limited on a 1891 train wreck which involved 4 different trains and occurred in East Thompson, CT.  Imagine my surprise in seeing that the article, "The East Thompson Wreck!!" was co-authored by Gregg Turner and Alice Ramsdell-the very same Alice Ramsdell.  It seems both Alice and her father, Frank, were also railfans.  In fact, on their farm alongside the Quinebaug River resided a narrow-gauge steam engine which Frank and 3 others had rescued from the defunct Wiscasset, Waterville, and Farmington RR in coastal Maine.  On the Find A Grave website is a  photograph of Alice standing aboard her dad's steam engine in happier days.  Today the little engine has been restored and once again chugs along the tracks in eastern Maine.  More info on the Wiscasset, Waterville and Farmington RR can be found at this link.

After launching into the West Thompson Lake a look to the south brought the dam into view...


 ...before I turned and headed up the lake and eventually the Quinebaug River towards and a little beyond Red Bridge Road where the river's current livened up a bit...


En route I encountered a 'nip' bottle at 1 o-clock...

...riding the current down, most likely, from a town over the state line in Massachusetts only about 3 miles or so upriver.  It was one of 25 'nip' bottles recovered that day.

On returning to West Thompson Lake a crew team was rowing on the lake...

Note the fifth member of the team sans oars.

Post paddle I drove further south on Route 12 to my accommodations in Plainfield, CT passing through the scenic towns of Putnam, Attawaugan, Killingly, Danielson, and Wauregan along the way.

On Tuesday I drove westward on the undulating and scenic Route 14 through the small towns of Canterbury and Scotland to Shetucket River Park on Plains Road in Windham.  My objective was to paddle upriver on the Shetucket to its confluence with the Willimantic/Natchaug rivers, and later to paddle downriver from Plains Rd.  However the current was a little stronger than I was and only allowed me to get within sight of the confluence...

I landed in an eddy and walked about a 200 yards further up to the confluence...

The USGS gauge showed 1200 cfs/4.25' and my trip back downriver was a swift one...

  
Once back at Plains Rd...

...I elected to takeout rather than paddle further downriver and tempt fate (and the current).  With the rest of the afternoon to kill I drove 2 miles into Willimantic planning to scout another launch site near the Airline Rail Trail.  Instead of finding the boat launch I found myself looking through the closed gate of the Connecticut Eastern Railroad Museum...

I remembered learning that the museum has a working 60-foot turntable and 6-stall engine house while looking for information regarding an abandoned 60-foot turntable foundation in my own town.  I was peering through the fence with my camera when a museum volunteer kindly invited me onto the museum's grounds.  Shortly I was watching as a museum staff member operated the turntable using the "armstrong" technique...
...which is the same technique mentioned in descriptions of my town's turntable which served a 2-stall engine house.  In fact, if I understand correctly, both turntables were made by Boston Bridge Works within 8 years of one another.  The museum's turntable was originally installed in Dudley, MA then later moved to Edaville RR in S. Carver, MA before finally being moved to the former Columbia Junction turntable foundation at the CT Eastern RR Museum.  Leaves me to wonder where the one from S. Acton ended up.

My heartfelt thanks to the staff of the museum for allowing me see the turntable and its operation.  I now have a much better idea of how the turntable at South Acton may have looked and operated...

 
 Below is the museum's two-tiered stone foundation with the ring rail which the table's wheels follow...

Compare with this photo of the two-tiered stone foundation in South Acton missing the ring rail...

This photo shows how wheels at each end of the table ride the ring rail...

Before leaving the museum grounds I got to see this 2011 replica of the 'Gallows' signal structure which governed train movements at Bridge Street in Willimantic...

It may represent the same signal structure referred to as "the famous 'windmill' signal at the Bridge Street interlocking in Willimantic" in the aforementioned "East Thompson Wreck!!" article by Gregg Turner and Alice Ramsdell.


On Wednesday I stayed closer to Plainfield and launched into the Quinebaug River from Butts Bridge in Canterbury, CT...

...with the intention of paddling to Peagscomsuck Island...

I was intrigued that a relatively small island would have retained its Native American name through all the many years since being mentioned in land transfer deeds in the late 1600s.  Neither the meaning of the word or whether it's Mohegan or Nipmuc in origin isn't known for sure.  Possible meanings range from "swift narrow brook", "cleared lands", "great brook", and my personal favorite "where stream divides into two currents".  The island is about 3.5 miles upriver from Butts Bridge and the route is a winding one through a series of oxbows...until finally the island's southern tip appears...

     The opposite tip on the island's north end...
..."where the stream divides into two currents" per John C. Huden in his 1962 Indian Place Names of New England.

I landed on the island and found it carpeted with these wildflowers...

Peagscomsuck Island is significant for having given its name to the adjacent area.  Ellen D. Larned in her History of Windham County Connecticut 1600 to 1760 published in 1874 relates how the Mohegan sachem Uncas was "sinking into dotage" and his son Owaneco had a serious drinking problem. In 1680 the General Court ordered that "If Uncas hath right to any land about Quinebaug he may make it out and dispose of it to his son Owaneco, and such gentlemen as he shall see cause."  Larned then explains that Owaneco, "conscious of his own inability to retain or dispose of this land" designated James Fitch to act as his guardian in all such matters.  Thus Fitch ended up controlling thousands of acres of land in Quinebaug Country.  Consequently in 1697 he chose "a neck of land enclosed by a curve of the Quinebaug (River), below the river island Peagscomsuck" for his own.  "Soon the Indian 'neck' became an attractive family seat...drawing many people around him (Fitch), and his plantation was at once recognized as a place of no small consequence; a rendezvous for land-traders, civil and military officials and hordes of idle Indians." (idle???)  On the day of my visit both the island and the adjacent land along the river's west bank was silent.  One brick chimney and hearth stood alone on the river's east side downstream of Peagscomsuck...

Fitch's place is said to have been on the west side of the river perhaps below a mile long cut-off oxbow which may or may not have been the river's course at that time.  With my 3 day visit coming to an end the blue sky above Butts Bridge when I set out had become this upon my return...
...and shortly I was packed-up and traveling north on Route 395 back home to Massachusetts.  The Last Green Valley is a place with a unique feel and I hope to visit again soon.  

In doing some pre-visit research I came across an unusual Map of Connecticut, Circa 1625, Indian Trails, Villages, Sachemdoms.  It was drawn by Hayden L. Griswold based on information complied by Mathias Spiess and published in 1930 by the The Connecticut Society of The Colonial Dames and Mary Pierson Cheney.  The map is unusual in attempting to show Connecticut as it may have looked before it was colonized by Europeans. I enlarged the section showing the Last Green Valley areas which I visited and/or paddled...

   

Some wildlife encountered along the water during my visit:
This mink...
...and this wood turtle...



Some Earth Week trash...

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