Saturday, September 28, 2013

Paddling the Quinebaug River

Fall is a great time for paddling, especially on  warmer days with fall color along the edges of wetlands. I escaped the office one day this week with intrepid flatwater adventurers Charlie and Bob and got onto the Quinebaug River in central Massachusetts. Charlie and Bob continue to explore rivers on a weekly basis three years after my last excursion with them. What a life they live!

The Quinebaug is a 5 mile stretch of a narrow river and a national recreation trail that winds through open wetlands between Holland Pond and the East Brimfield Reservoir just east of Brimfield. The current is gentle so we paddled both upstream and down, basking in the beauty of a sunny day in a remote place loaded with autumn color. Herons and migrating birds were easy to view. Few people were using the river on a weekday but we did see a couple of fishermen and paddlers. Clear water allowed us to enjoy the streaming vegetation beneath our canoe and kayaks and catch glimpses fish and swimming turtles. I was thrilled to experience a few hours in this magnificent place.

The downstream section of the river was most effected by the tornado that occurred a few years back. Dead and broken trees are still standing along the river. The mile an a half wide swath of damage is much more visible from nearby roads, but even on the water you can see the open hillsides cleared by intense twisting wind. Otherwise, most of the river still has the tranquil presence of trees along side and nearby. The paddling experience is mostly out in the open so if you go make sure you are prepared for sun.

If, like Charlie and Bob, you've got your own boats and can load them in and out of the water, the Quinebaug is a great place to explore on  your own. There are two paved boat ramps right on Route 20 with ample parking and an accessible portapotty. There is plenty to explore with the river, reservoir on the south side and Long Pond on the north side of Route 20, all connected by tunnels under roads. There are 3 canoe rest stops along the Quinebaug - none are improved for accessibility but at least one (#2) has great potential for getting out onto higher ground into the shade if you bring along your manual wheelchair.

I plan to get back there soon to check accessibility of the Holland Pond boat launch which is the starting point if you want to paddle downstream only, a 2 1/2 hour trip. We paddled upstream and then turned around after two hours having paddled most of the river, then reversed our path to avoid shuttling cars. I 'd like to consider further how to create a more supported experience for others to get out and enjoy a wilder paddling experience. Suggestions welcome!!!

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