Archive for March, 2011

Don's Kayak Trailer - Let's Go!!!

The best access to this section of the river is from the Mendina Street boat launch on the Connecticut River.  A short paddle south will bring you here.   I have been back here several times over the past several years. I remember kayaking this and many great spots with the following cast of characters: My kayaking partner Megan, my brothers Ray and Don and my brother-in-law Don Croteau and his wife Rene and son Matt.  In my beginning years I visited many kayaking spots with this merry band of adventurers.   Ray had a single and a double which got us started. I then bought a double so I could bring my girls along, brother Don then bought his and very soon afterwards Don Croteau bought four kayaks,  three singles and a triple!  Don built himself a kayak trailer and that was it! We were off and kayaking!  We went everywhere together!

On one trip up the mouth of the river Matt spotted an electric motor.  He salvaged it and form what I understand got it connected to a battery and his kayak and he was motorized!!!

If my house was just here!!!

If my house was just here...

When your attempting to get up river here you’ll get only so far depending on the current and the height of the water.  Sometimes you have to work pretty hard to get only a little way up.  As you get into the river the beauty is abound in the lush green of summer.  Get up a little further and there is what looks like what is a tent city that high schoolers have worn into the area over the years. Geee why didn’t I get a jeep and invite myself to those parties?  Oh yeah, I was a good kid!  Walking along the bank of the river here there is a wonderful view. Wow,,,  to be able to have a  house on the bank here would be such a dream come true!

On other trips her with neighbors Tim and Alice and brother Don I was excited to catch a glimpse of a Common Merganser.  Yes, little things excite me!  Think about it,,, you live in this city for over 50 and you just have to be amazed at the variety of birds you see when you start paying attention.


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Put-in below the dam

This is another  excellent section of the river.  There is a real nice put in below the dam. There is a little bit of a carry but well worth it. In 2005 we enjoyed a trip all the way from Red Bridge to River Road.  My brother Ray planned this trip as he’s done it previously.

We dropped Ray, Megan and the three kayaks off in the parking lot and then Don and I drove west to drop one of the cars off at the takeout at River Road in Indian Orchard.  Then we rejoined the party below the Red Bridge Dam and we were off…

Putting in below the dam involves a short carry from the parking lot.  At the end of the path at the put-in it’s very picturesque. I just loved taking it in before shoving off.  The water was fairly quick so going down river was easy compared to paddling back up.  I normally like to paddle up river first to have an easier return trip.   Anyway, going down river on our first trip was very enjoyable.  In fact the first trip on any new waterway is always the best.  Wondering what you’re going to see around the next corner and then being surprised by what you find!

Great Blue Heron soaking up the sun!

On this trip floating around a little island, two feet from the bank Megan and I came up close and personal with a Great Blue Heron!  Your looking at him and he at you as you float by!  What a thrill!  You try your best to snap a picture to remember it by without spooking him.  Our next surprise was coming up on a stretch of Route 20.  I’ve driven that stretch of 20 in Wilbraham many times looking longingly at the river wishing I was down there.  Why? Well maybe I longed being on the river because I so enjoyed Huck Finn’s river adventure. So now I’m down on the river looking up at the cars speeding by, thinking how much the drivers might be longing to exactly where I was!  It does get much better than this!

When we got to the Miller St. Dam we looked for the best spot to do the carry around. There was a real nice spot that would have been perfect but,,, private property. So we did honorable thing and did not trespass.  Instead took a carry up a fairly steep bank on the other side.  That was a bit of work but after we shoved off it was time to relax and enjoy again. We were on our way to the next dam at the center of Indian Orchard.

I’ve written already about this stretch to River Road where we had previously kayaked many times. It was a great float back down past the golf course, power lines and the beauty of the trees lining the river.

Beaver Lodge

We’ve put in Below Red Bridge a few times since this trip but not doing carries around the dam.  What really makes the Chicopee River so nice is there is not a civilization you can see.  For the most part it’s water and trees. The Nipmunk Indians called it the River of Birches!  You just imagine them going up and down the river, fishing and hunting. I’m sure the river was their life. Maybe they hunted this ancestor that  built this beaver lodge?

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This is a section of the Chicopee River I had to seek out after hearing my dad talk about Indian Leap… Indian Leap? What was that about?  I believe many years ago he told me that there were Indians that died there.  He told there was a side street call Indian Leap that previously led to a bridge over the river.  So one Sunday I took a ride with Don and Megan to check it out. Sure enough there was a very high bridge abutment and a cliff equally as high on the other side.  We just had to get down on the river!  So, checking out the map we found a very nice boat launch on Water Street.  The  launch and parking area (no trailers) is just above a good size dam, high and long.

Alice gets the shot!

This section of river, like many other sections of the Chicopee is “Class A Beautiful”.  Lush green on both sides as you paddle up river.  There are always Cormorants on the river. Here is my neighbor Alice snapping a shot.  You feel like you’re on a lake in the section above the dam and as get closer to the other end you’re thinking it’s a dead end, but then you come upon the cliff. Indian Leap!   You know there are still kids jumping off the cliffs although I’ve not seen anyone.  As we are down on the water we are looking along the cliff into the water there’s one interesting danger, it’s an old car that took a tumble over the edge.  Looks like an old rusty roadster.  Hopefully no one will jump onto  it!

Looking for the history Indian Leap I found this…

The History of Ludlow Massachusetts – With Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens, Reminiscences, Genealogies, Farm Histories, and an Account of the Centennial Celebration, June 17, 1874


After the destruction of Springfield by fire, October 4, 1675, the warriors retreated eastward six miles, as we are informed by the annalists. The place of their encampment is said to have been on the peninsula, in the south part of the town, known as the Indian Leap, where twenty-four smoldering camp fires and some abandoned plunder were all the vestiges remaining the next morning.


Of course, the story of all stories concerning the Indians, within the limits of the present town, is the familiar one respecting the leap of Roaring Thunder and his men, in the time of King Philip’s war. Although the account is wholly legendary, there is therewith so fine a flavor of the aboriginal, that it has ever been popular among those fond of folklore. It is reported that the band of warriors was camping on the sequestered peninsula, lulled into quiet by the sound of the roaring fall of water, precipitously tumbling scores of feet over the rocks, within a half mile of the stream bed. Some aver, that upon this point there were spread the wigwams of the Indians, and quite a company of them made the place their home; that at the time these tragic events occurred, the red men had captured one of the women from Masacksick (Longmeadow), and were pursued by the intrepid settlers, and finally discovered in their rude home on the banks of the river. In the midst of their quiet and solitude, came the alarm that the white men were closely following up their trail into the thicket. There was no retreat. They had taught the paleface the meaning of “no quarter,” and could expect naught but retaliation. Only one way of escape presented itself, and that was into the jaws of death. To the brink of the fearful precipice, then, before the backwaters of the corporation pond had reduced the distance a hundred feet, did the painted braves dash on, and over into the wild waters and upon the ragged rocks they leaped, directly into the arms of hungry death. Roaring Thunder is said to have watched while each of his company leaped into the frightful chasm, and then, taking his child high in his arms, casting one glance back upon the wigwam homes, he followed the rest into the rushing waters. The pursuers looked, wonderingly, over the jutting sandstone walls; but one living redskin met their eyes, and he was disappearing among the inaccessible forest trees, which skirted the other shore.

There have been received two accounts of the Indian Leap affair; one from Hon. G. M. Fisk of Palmer…  The little island near the Leap was said to be the place where the Indians sat around their council fires and judged their captives. There used to be a cave in the rocks where, it was said, the chief had his headquarters, and I believe to this day there is a sort of hole in the ledge where the Indians pounded their corn.

The story was that a party of Indians had assembled on the island to judge a captive, when they were surprised by the whites, fled to the shore, leaving in their haste their weapons behind them, and betook themselves to the little peninsula forming the Indian Leap. Here they were trapped, as there was no alternative but surrender or plunge down the precipice. They hesitated a moment, when the old chief took his little son in his arms, gave the war- whoop and plunged down the precipice. The rest followed, and all were killed except a squaw, who caught on an overhanging limb, but a shot from the pursuing party put an end to her.

So, dad was right, there is some history behind Indian Leap!  Now keep those Indians in mind as you continue up the winding river.  Maybe they are watching from behind the trees!!!   As you get closer to the Ludlow Dam the river gets shallow.  If you can make it close to the dam in low water you’ll be rewarded with wonderful Glacial Potholes! And you thought you had to go to Shelburn Falls?  They are not as big but they are very nice.   With so much expose stone here it appears to be a favorite hang out for birds of pray.  We’ve seen Eagles and Red Tail Hawks on most of our visits.  There are a few side channels and to explore and the island that’s mentioned in the Indian story above.  When they were in command of the river we should keep in mind that it was a much different.  How much the dams have changed the river!  I’ve read that the Chicopee River drops 260 feet from it’s headwaters to it’s final destination, The Connecticut River.  I know of about eight of them in my travels over the past eight wonderful years.

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It doesn't get much better than this!

When we were kids, my family spent many summer days at Uncle Euclid’s camp on Nine Mile Pond in Wilbraham. One of my favorite legs of the trip was Shawinigan Drive overlooking Monsanto; we used to sing M-O-N,,, S-A-N,,, T-O! MONSANTO!!! The other was the drive on River Road in Indian Orchard. The river was always so beautiful.  It’s no wonder I made this one of my first spots to explore once I started to kayak.

I remember the first trip up river I spotted my first Great Blue Heron.  It’s really a thrill when you can get close to watch one of these birds.  They are so quite and graceful. Another memory is the lush green trees along both banks all the way up.  You would think you’re in Maine or Canada!  One note of caution though, if you go during the week there is a rock quarry on the right side is fairly loud,,, weekends are best!

One of our greatest outings!

In 2003 I had 2 very memorable trips up this gorgeous river with my brothers Don and Ray and my Mom and Dad and again with my sister Elise.  What a great way to spend a morning, we all had a great time.  We went all the way up past the Ludlow Country Club on the left hand side of the river.  On Another trip I can remember Megan being so thrilled catching a few little fish with a net she bought just for the trip.

Megan 11 years old - Catches the big one!

We have been all the way up to the next dam at Cottage Avenue. There is one spot that is a little strange. That’s going under the power lines that cross the river.  Strange is the sound of the power surging through the lines.  It’s such a powerful hum.  So what would happen if a line ever broke and fell into the river?

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