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Archive for the ‘Easthampton, MA’ Category

IMG_7427There are so many great places to kayak in Massachusetts you would think we live in the land of a thousand lakes. I’m sure there are not that many but we have our fair share. What is really surprising to me is the number of rivers, ponds and lakes within populated cities that are overlooked by the masses who don’t really appreciate the beauty of what Mother Nature has given them.  Taking the time to explore these gems is a favorite kayaking pastime for me. Most of the time, like on Nashawannuck Pond, you’ll find that while some of the waterway is near a city or road that can detract from the quiet calm of nature, there is often a pleasant haven waiting for you at another end or inlet. It’s in these little havens that I often find myself asking why I’m here alone; why others haven’t discover the beauty?  After asking, I then waste no time in laying back in the kayak to soak it all in. Usually with the morning sunshine poking through trees that are  providing shoreline shade so welcomed on a warm summer’s day.

IMG_7413Nashawannuck Pond provided such an experience.  Launching from the public park in the city center the first photo op is the great American flag suspended over the pond.  Surely it’s the focal point to everyone passing over the Route 141 Cottage Street bridge on their way to work, school, or daily activity.  We were drawn to the park as the put in by a pin on the “Launch Sites” iPhone application, it was not a great launch site. Once we paddled south across the pond we found an official state launch site, complete with a concrete ramp and port-a-potty! Next time, we’ll take West Green Street off Route 141 for an easier put in.

First order of business,,, coffee and breakfast sandwiches while floating under a great shade tree.  It’s always a pleasure kayaking with my brother Don, he’s a great conversationalist who knows when it’s time to sit in silence to enjoy the moment.   With breakfast behind us we paddled off to explore the further reaches of the pond.  Next to our launch was the cemetery so as you can imagine the shoreline there was quite peaceful, next up was Nonotuck Park.  The only thing visible from the park was an amphitheater over looking the water, I imagine a great place for school children to watch nature shows.  On this Sunday morning, there was only a lone fisherman who did not seem to be having luck but was enjoying the day as was I.

IMG_7404There were a few houses on the pond that had small wharfs and  a few had manicured lawns right down to the water but mostly it was a tree lined wonderland.  The birds were signing and the sun was shining, what more could you ask for?   How about a chance to get a great shot of a Yellow-Shafted Northern Flicker?  This was my day!  I spotted him on the bank side by side with a Baltimore Oriole. Seemed like an odd couple but they soon went each their own way.  The flicker however stuck around to feed on a tree right in front of me.  I felt lucky as any I’ve seen in the past were deep in the shadows of the woods not conducive to my lens.  There was certainly enough here on this visit for a return trip some day and I’d encourage anyone thinking of kayaking to go for it.  If you live in Massachusetts there are plenty of great kayaking spots close to where you live.  Everyone has their favorite spots but for me it’s about discovering the beauty of each new pond, lake, or river.

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The Manhan River was a great find on our first trip on the Oxbow.  When we first started kayaking our group was Don S., Ray, Don C., Renee, Matt, and Megan.  We did a lot of kayaking together.  Our first trips to the Oxbow were really about the Oxbow.  The Croteau’s all like to fish, The Samson’s just enjoyed the beauty of the water and nature. I remember there were always a few fish caught but what I really remember is seeing Renee meandering out of the mouth of a river and then seeing her pull up onto the front of her kayak this great big fish. I think it was a Shortnose Sturgeon . This thing must have been 3 feet long!  Would have been a great catch but really the poor thing had either been caught on one too many hooks or was hit by a boat.  It was barely alive but it was a sight to see.  That day was the first time we entered the Manhan.

Don on the Manhan

Paddling down this river is so nice.  It’s got that closed in feel that gives you a personal oneness with the river.  There is always something to enjoy on this river.  Like so many rivers you paddle the Great Blue Herons are always around.  They let you get so close to them then they fly 100 feet upriver, get close again and they fly another 100 feet.  The same thing with the Kingfisher… Two birds that you’ll normally see alone flying ahead just out of reach of your camera.  I’ll get a picture of a Kingfisher someday I thought.

After that first time down this river I had to know more about it. It was then I went out and bought a great map. A DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer of Massachusetts. This is the map every kayaker needs.  This map identified the Manhan River for me and so many ponds and rivers yet to come!

A Killdeer - a member of the Plover family

I’ve been back here many times and I’ve made the trip several times all by myself on early summer Saturday mornings.  I’m lucky that all the friends and relatives that I kayak with don’t mind that I stop to take pictures and sometimes wait quite a while to get the picture I’m trying for, but it great going it alone sometimes.  It’s nice to sit in one spot for an hour to wait for a deer or Kingfisher to come along with no one to hurry you…  then a surprise…  a Killdeer shows up to have it’s picture taken!

Most of the time from the Oxbow you can’t get to far up the Manhan River. There are river roadblocks or trees fallen into the river, “laydowns”.   At normal river levels you can get around most but sooner or later you get stopped.  On the Manhan you can rarely get up as far as the Fort Hill Road Bridge.  When the river is flooded, you’ll want to launch from the bridge and explore the woods in your kayak!  For the first few of my kayak years I longed to explore the woods when they were flooded.  Many times I could see great spots from the road but I could never find a good spot to launch.

Anyone home?

The Manhan and Mill rivers changed all that. When the Connecticut River is raging at flood stage the water in the Oxbow has nowhere to go. The same holds true with the rivers that empty into it.   Flood stage is really great.  This river stretches into both woods and fields.  In autumn floods you can be boating with bobbing pumpkins.  This spring Don and I came upon an abandoned camper half submerged.  One thing to be cautious of when kayaking a flooded river… your sense of direction can sometimes be confused.  More than once I thought I was going one way when in fact I was going the other.  I should bring a compass.

In short, this river is a gem to behold.

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