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IPhone Pano of the put-in

iPhone Pano of the put-in

In August of 2015 Diane and I tried a new spot on the Cape called Ocean Mist for a few days. It was right on the Sound not but a few hundred feet from the mouth of Parkers River which looked very inviting on the map with several small ponds and a few open marshes to explore. However, when 6:00 AM arrived I found it a bit to breezy to put off from our beach. So as I had to find a Dunkin Donuts anyway, I headed to Route 28 to see if I could find another good put in. On the way I found a perfect spot right near the old ZooQuarium and Captain Parker’s Pub.   I knew this was going to be good when I walked over to the water line to look closer at the put in a Great Blue Heron took to flight squawking as I interrupted his morning peacefulness. Loading up my gear I realized I forgot my camera! What a tragedy! Oh well, not going back now, besides, I had my trusty iPhone so let’s see how it does.

As I was north of Route 28, getting to the mouth of the river and into Lewis Pond I would have had to go through the underpass. As the tide was high and going out, the constricted size of the tunnel caused the water move real fast, I thought there was no way I’d be able to paddle back up so I pushed on up river thinking I’d make it into Seine Pond and maybe into Long Pond further up.

A Perfect Morning

A Perfect Morning for Mourning Doves (iPic)

Pretty quickly I realized I was in for a treat. I was face to face with a Green Heron. He was sitting right in front of me on the boulders leading up to the underpass. Where was my camera? Moving on I see a man-made Osprey stand with a large nest. Then I saw more Green Herons, probably about four or five, more than I’ve ever seen together in one trip.   The Herons held my attention most of the way up the river. Then there was the sound of Ospreys. They were in the scrub pines watching over the calm of the river in the early morning. I saw three natural Osprey nests in the pines as I made my way to Seine Pond. Normally I haven’t seen many Osprey nests in trees as every year when the Osprey return to their nest they add on which increases the weight and they become too heavy for the trees and fall.  Going up river I thoroughly enjoyed watching the receding river expose the banks which were teaming with hermit crabs and mussels.  The sea grass was another sight to behold.  It seemed shorter than other mash areas I’ve observed. In one of the pine trees I spotted a couple of Mourning Doves.  A little out of placed I thought, but then it occurred to me I was the one probably out of place. This was their home most of the year, I was lucky to come by for a visit once or twice a season.

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Rounding the bend (iPic)

At the end of Parkers River as I rounded the bend into the pond there was a small windmill. All metal, it was probably put there to monitor coastal wind or water conditions. Seine Pond opening before me was larger than I had expected. All Pitch Pine on the right side, and several nice lake houses on the left. Further back I could several tall reed patches and I guessed that is where the feeder brook or river led up to Long Pond. I never found the entrance; it looked like the northern shore was nestled into a hillside not into other pond. No worries, a flock of swans caught my attention next. Congregated behind a bank of reeds I couldn’t count them, all I could see were long white necks. As they began filing out into the pond I followed and counted. Well over fifty, the largest flock I’ve ever seen in one place. Usually I’ll see one or two families, not fifty adults! I had been wondering why I’ve seen two names for this pond. My guess is the original name was Seine Pond and somewhere along the line Swan Pond came into being because of the large population residing here.

Paddling back I enjoyed a variety of gulls on their way to who knows where. There were Herring Gulls, Lesser and Greater Back Gulls and Bonaparte Gulls. I saw several Cormorants as well. Some were flying high overhead, while some raced across the pond two feet above the surface. I also witnessed a few takeoffs which is always a treat. One cormorant took off directly in front of my kayak, it was pretty cool watching him lift his wings up for that first burst that created the lift to rise him out of the water, from there it was a combination of wing and paddle power as he took off in the running takeoff fashion that is so typical of the Cormorant.

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Tree Swallows (iPic)

Back into the river the Tree Swallows became the next important inhabitants to observe. There were a couple of dead scrub oaks with flocks of swallows resting from the morning feeding I had witnessed on my paddle upriver. I heard several Catbirds crying in several spots along the river, and then I saw the Ospreys again. This time two of them were fending off an intruding band of crows. The crows seemed to reside in the woods further back and I was thinking that this must be a fairly common ritual as crows always seem to be the aggressor looking for a free meal.

As I rounded the last bend back to the launch I noticed how much fiercer the current had become under the Route 28 bridge, the tide had quite an effect. Had I chosen to go down river there would have been no to get back to the launch and judging from what I knew the steep banks looked like on the other side the only recourse would have been to paddle back down and out to the sound and around the beach in front of our hotel.

Well, getting out at the landing I was thankful, and the memories of vacations past when my parents took us to the Zooquarium in what was probably its final days.

Osprey in flight!

Osprey in flight!

I did go back the same spot the next morning this time with my camera and was I glad that I did. The second trip was dominated by Ospreys. Both on the way up and back they held my attention. Several times I would just sit beneath them and wait for them to fly off. It’s times like this that your rewarded with a great shot.

Diane and I did take an evening walk to the Red Jacket Inn to look at the mouth of the river. Lewis Pond was right across the river from our vantage point. I looked nice but not enough to entice me to it more than another trip to Parkers River again sometime. I hope the put in remains the same as thinking back on it the bank was really too high to get a kayak no matter what the level of the water. However, there was a perfect little shoot dug into the bank in which my single kayak glided into the water nicely. I’d like to thank that nice person that took the time  🙂

 

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Update: August 2016.

I visited the Cape a few times this summer and on the second trip I once again visited the river and pond with goals of a) trying to find a safer put-in and b) enjoying the river and taking a few more pics!

Last year I paddled north along the east side of the lake and found nothing so this winter I looked at Google Maps along the west coast and found a few possible spots.  I still launched from the Route 28 spot because I knew it however it was a little tricky.  I think the reason I choose it was that I enjoyed the river much more than that pond.  I sat in my kayak with a coffee and breakfast sandwich watching a Green Heron settle into a comfortable position as he waited for his breakfast to swim by!  There was also a great backdrop for viewing in the Osprey nest and perch that held three adults and at least a few offspring.   I could have stayed there for a long time but I had business.

I paddled against the current as the tide was going out. Upriver I paddled by the small windmill. I had done a bit more research on it as well, it’s purpose was not as I thought  but instead it is being used to pump air into the pond to help it’s oxygen level.  Live and Learn!

Paddling up the west bank searching for the potential put-in I actually found two.  The first was a small beach that I was afraid might be private.  I got out to investigate and it turns out it’s an Association Beach.  I asked a gentleman watering his lawn in the house across the  street if it was OK to park and launch from here and he said it sure would be OK.  After thanking him I got back in and paddled a hundred more feet or so and found the road I had seen on Google.  Lake Road ends right in the pond!  Right where I want to be next time out!

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Hampton Ponds is nice because it’s so close to home and there is a nice boat ramp that makes it easy in and out. We have been here several times with different friends. It’s nice paddling around looking at the camps along the shore.

Sunset on Hmpton Ponds

It was nice one evening when we went after supper to watch the sun go down,,, only problem was there was still a few speedboats out and well,,, we felt like we were in their sights!!! Our little kayaks needed neon running lights.   I think any future trips will be during daylight.  Over the years we found that early morning kayaking was always the best. Speedboats don’t get up early for some reason.

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Here is another of my top ten spots. Otis Reservoir is quite large and in the summer there are always a lot of speedboats and waverunners.  KAYAKERS BEWARE!!!  The first trip was with Megan, Don and the Croteau’s (Don, Renee, and Matt)  on a hot June morning. Don Croteau knew about Dismal Bay at the southern tip so we followed him there. It was quite a long paddle and by the time we arrived the sun was quite strong.  It was hot and we found some welcome shade behind a small island. It turned out to be quite a magical place, just sitting in the shade looking at the beauty of the spot.  The southern tip of the bay is called Dismal Bay. We found it dismal but superb at the same time. It’s dismal because of all the old rotted tree stumps giving you the feeling that you’re in a graveyard.  This might look like a graveyard to boaters that get caught up in the low water and roots of the rotted trees, but for a kayaker this is a wonderland!  The roots of the stumps are exposed in the shallow water.  What a maze! I still wonder why the soil eroded from under the tree stumps.  The Croteau’s went off fishing for Bass while Meg, Don and I sat enjoying the scene.  The tree stumps above water were fascinating as well.  Moss and molds of many earthy colors and quite amazing the grow of little sprigs growing out of the dead stumps.

We have been back here many times.  One exceptional trip was when the water as drained a few feet below it’s normal level.  When the tree stumps and roots that have previously been underwater have dried in the hot summer sun the driftwood effect is quite striking.  I could spend hours looking at the textures and moving slowly around the island and stumps.

After two trips to Dismal Bay launching form the public boat launch I found a good map the DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer and found there was a dirt back road right to the bay.  So now we go strait to the best part of the reservoir… Dismal Bay.  To get there turn left off Rt. 23 at sign for Camp Overflow.  Follow past sign for Camp to sign for Tolland State Forest instead of turning into the State Forest where the boat launch is, go straight on to the dirt road follow it about a mile and turn Left onto Belden Rd. About a third of a mile is the spot.  Enjoy!!!

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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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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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Willows on the Oxford MarshThis section of the river is accessed from Taylor St in Chicopee Falls.   This has always been one of my top ten spots over the years.  It’s really wonderful!   For many years I lived in Chicopee Falls on Wildermere St.  Every time I drove anywhere I could see the marsh at the stop sign going into East Main Street. For years I would see boats on the water fishing or the ice fishermen in winter.  Secretly I longed to be down on the water.  Again back in the 80’s the water was polluted so the urge only started once the water was cleaned up.

In 2002 my dream was finally realized.  We found that the access was at the end of Taylor St, where my brother-in-law Jean lives.  There was a gate that was actually open back then and we could drive down to the water on the old fire road.  That didn’t last long and now we have to carry the kayaks down to the water’s edge about a quarter-mile.   Fairly long carry but well worth it. My girls bought me kayak wheels for my birthday and that turned out to be a real blessing.

The marsh is one of the most peaceful and beautiful spots I know of.  When your here it’s hard to imagine you’re in the middle of a city!

First Trip with DadBecause I’m from Chicopee and have been around long enough to remember how bad the river was and have witnessed it’s transformation it has special meaning.  I love to show it off. For that reason it’s always been a favorite spot to bring friends and relatives.  The list would go on  and on as I’ve been back here over twenty-five times.  It’s really great when you bring someone kayaking for the first time and they fall in love with it so much they run out and buy kayaks of their own.  Right Jim and Dee 🙂 ???

While here you’ll enjoy painted turtles, cormorants, swans, ducks, great blue herons, green heron, great egrets. red-winged blackbirds, swallows, sandpipers, etc. etc. etc…

The flora along the river can also be very beautiful.  green and lush in summer.   Sometimes we paddle down river and sit just above the Chicopee Falls dam while we have our morning coffee and donuts watching the traffic on the bridge.  We saw the old singing bridge go and the new no name bridge take it’s place.

This year one Sunday in June I was kayaking with Tim Langlois and Don Samson, when Tim spotted what he thought was a bow of a boat under water.  We all paddled over to it to check it out. Sure enough we could see it about two feet under water.    We thought, how hard it would be to pull it out?  We wondered, who’s it was and how did it sink?  If we pulled it out, could we keep it?  We prodded and poked for some time. Finally we were able to read the registration  numbers, maybe we could find the owner? That was it… for the next two weeks the wheels were turning.  We had the registration number check by both the Chicopee PD and the Environmental Police and both had no record.  I asked Tim if we pulled it up would it be OK to give it to Andrea and Jeff who had just bought a house on the beautiful Lake Massasoit also known as Watershops Pond, more to come on that in a later blog.  Tim thought that was a great idea and said yes.

Thank you Tim!!!!

The plan was we would go back with a crew of four or five guys to work at pulling it out.  But as it turned out the Sunday morning Don and I were shooting for no one could go. It was just us. We decided to bring the equipment down to scope it out. Even if it turned out to be a dry run.   We had a come-along, shovel,  three lengths of kryponite cable and a lock. We were able to lock on to the bow of the boat and tie off the come-along on a fallen tree on the bank. This was WORK! I started to crank it and to our surprise the first real tight pull we saw bubbles come up from under the boat!  We knew it was going to move!!! We cut off an anchor on the bow. We pulled for a few hours,,, one slow click at a time.  As we got it closer to shore we saw how much mud was in the boat.  Each click of the come-along took everything we had. We figured there was about 800 pounds of mud in the boat.

While we shoveled out the mud we found other treasures; Bear cans, tackle box, fishing pole, cell phone, battery and all weather radio! And more mud…  Maybe there was 1,600 pounds of mud?  Yeah right,,, wouldn’t you know, after we got the back of the boat up high enough we found there was another anchor tied to the back. We were pulling the boat, mud, and anchor!!! IT FLOATS!!! Oh but what a thrill when the last of the mud and water was bailed out and it was once again sea worthy!   We were two happy brothers!  The Samson Brothers Salvage Company was in business!!!  We floated it and pulled it up river to a pre-arranged drop off point and turned over the abandon property a few days later.

Success!!!

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It all started here… June of 2002.  I had read an article in the Springfield paper the year before about the Chicopee River Basin.   I was captured by the descriptions of each part of this river especially how scenic the river was.  This was the river that I grew up near that as a teenager I remember more the stench more than beauty.  Anyway, a year later I finally asked my brother Ray to take me kayaking on the river.  He took me along with my brother Don to Red Bridge in Ludlow.

Ray had been kayaking for years. He had always said he’d take me some day,,, now I could only ask why did he wait so long! It was love at first sight! I knew I’d be back here many times.

And return we did! Many time this year and ever year since. Here is a great shot of my nephew Matt! This spot of standing water is in a little inlet behind on of the old dams above the launch at Red Bridge.  This was a nice little stream for a kayak to explore!  How far up can you go!

We have been here with neighbors and relatives.  I went out and bought a two person kayak very soon after this trip. I choose a two person because I hoped  that my daughter Megan was also going to fall in love with kayaking and be my Kayaking Partner.  She did!  And it didn’t stop there, my brother Don bought one and my brother-in-law Don bought four!  One of his was a three person kayak. So very soon these along with Ray’s two kayaks we were a Kayaking Troop!  We went everywhere together. We could go on trips with up to eleven paddlers.

On this stretch of river we returned may times.

Megan and Matt

Stopping at different spots on the trip up the river one of our favorites was the stop at Fort Giggles! (Actually we didn’t deface the rock) This spot has a nice little stream that water falls down to the river and an old rail trail to walk along the river.

The put in at the dam is a large concrete ramp. so there is easy access for a kayak.  On one trip we were happy to find an inlet across the river to explore.

We have been all the way up to Three Rivers close to where the Swift, the Quaboag, and the Ware rivers come together and form the Chicopee River.  Could only go as far as an old Mill that dams the river with a nice concrete spillway that you can almost make up in your kayak,,, it’s fun trying!!!

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