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Archive for the ‘Mill River’ Category

Update: May 27, 2019 – Looks like there are a couple of lay-downs that will interfere with kayaking the Mill this year.  At a gauge height  of 6.20 feet it’s still passable. But at summertime levels (5.5 – 5.6) we’ll be blocked out unless you can portage around.   P.S.  By the looks of the resident beaver’s lodge, he’s been pretty active.

Update: June 12, 2018 – Be aware of the Beaver dam this year

Update: July 30, 2018 – At a gauge height  of 6.29 we sailed over the dam easily!

As I say in the blog below, this river changes every time you visit.  On this day we got to the Fort Hill Road put in knowing the Connecticut River was very low which means in turn so is the Oxbow and the Mill River.   My brother and I had no problem making it to the mouth of the river as it is still early in the season and the river weeds are still young sprouts. We could see that Hulberts Pond was also low and the center island was exposed.  We enjoyed watching the usual lone Great Blue. Took a few shots,,, I’ll come back to that 🙂

It wasn’t two minutes into the river that I spotted a large beaver dam that looked to be blocking the entire width of the river which is about 80 feet wide. At the same time I spotted a deer on the opposite side of the dam bounding into the brush. To quick for a picture this time. The dam was about 3 feet high but it was not holding back any water.  I was thinking that it was because the water had been escaping via Hulberts Pond. However, today this was not the case.  After spending several minutes observing in awe the solid structure of the dam the Beavers had built I decided to explore the left end of the dam that I could not see from my vantage point, but having observed that the river current looked stronger there, it was worth a look see.  After dropping back and maneuvering to the left and pushing the kayak over shallows of river silt I found that there was a 10 foot gap blown out of the dam. In fact, the rush of water had carved out a new wall on the bank of the river at least 8 to 10 feet high!

Still having the adventurous spirit, I decided to see if I could make it through. It was a little tough squeezing down into my kayak to make it under the large tree laying from the bank into the dam but I made it.  The next hurdle was to push again over the river silt that the force of the running water deposited in its rush to escape the confines of the dam.  I made it and so did my brother who’s kayak has a deeper draft.  We did make it up to our favorite spot we call “the cathedral” and I wondered how may more times that will be possible this year.   Looking at the depth of the water I’d say it would be wise to check to see if it’s below 5.80 feet at the Northampton Gauge. If it is you will not likely get up river.  This site is maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey.  The water stream flow data  is a must for serious kayakers!   https://waterdata.usgs.gov/usa/nwis/uv?01171500  Just a note here; I did see the beaver patrolling the backside of the dam on our way back.  I’m sure he was trying to figure out how to repair the damage!

Now for the rest of the story 🙂  Remember I was taking pictures of the Heron on the way into the river?  Well I took several photos and it wasn’t until I was reviewing them a few days later that I found something interesting in one of the shots that was out of focus…  A Deer and it’s fawn behind him in focus!   This must have been the deer that I observed on the other side of the dam running from me!     Oh and one more observation…  It was the perfect time to see the broods of little Mallards.  Both on the way up and back we saw three separate families.  Those little Mallards are so cute at this age.

 

 

 

How sweet it is!

 

 

Originally Published May 29, 2011 With rewrite in Aug 2017

Easily one of my favorite places. Part of Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary it’s a haven for a large variety of birds and mammals. This is also by far brother Don’s number one kayaking sight for sure. Every week for the past few years if I ask where do you want to go, it will be here. I guess you could say this is our happy place.  In 12 years we’ve been here over 85 times.  I will say that kayaking the Mill River, as in life, is about the times  when something special happens.  These are precious moments.  The Mill more then anywhere else has more of those precious moments then anywhere else.  The Mill  changes every time you put in.  It changes with the seasons, the weeks, and the day! The birds or animals you see makes such a difference in the experience of each trip as does the stages of growth of the flora both in and surrounding the water.  It changes with the river level even more!  The Mill flows into the Oxbow which flows into the Connecticut River.  When the Connecticut is high the water backs up into the Mill and overflows the banks, flooding about a half of a square mile of lush forest.  Kayaking in the flooded forest is a real treat.  Most of the flooding I’ve experienced has been in the spring which is nice but summer flooding is by far so much more of a sight to behold.  One sunny Sunday morning in July is all it takes to turn you into a believer.   The sunlight shinning through the trees and reflecting off the water back up to the underside of the leaves is a sight to remember.  Oh yes, I should mention when the river floods it is very easy to become disorientated and can be hard to find your way out.  On this July morning Don and I did not agree which way was back to the launch.  Well it turned out I was right as I validated by looking at Google Maps!  It was fun to see just where we were as the satellite followed me, the little blue dot, kayaking the flood plains of the Mill.

When we first started coming here we were putting in at the Route 5 Oxbow launch and paddling up the Oxbow to the Manhan River and then to the Mill River.  We soon realized that it was easier to take East Street to Fort Hill Road and put in at the mouth of the Mill.  We’ve put in both to the right and left this side of the bridge and to the right on the other side so whichever is your preference.  Oh and when the river is flooded you may be forced to stop your car where the road goes underwater and launch from there!

While there are signs posted to alert you of the fact that there is no fishing or hunting in this wildlife sanctuary, you can still experience some great sightings of birds, deer, beavers, and fish.

A Buttonbush

I have so many outstanding memories kayaking on the Mill.  Starting with my first discovery of a button bush! Ever see a Button Bush in full bloom? Pure white little balls with very symmetric stems capped with tiny yellow flowers. Such perfect little globes in every respect. God gets an A+ for this one.  You’ve got to be there on the perfect day to catch ’em when they’ve just bloomed and still bright white.   A precious moment.

Cedar Waxwing swooping in for a dragonfly!

Then there was my first encounter with a flock of Cedar Waxwings! We were sitting in our kayaks on a sunny Sunday morning while we watched these beautiful birds swooped right in front of our kayaks picking off the damselflies and dragonflies one by one!  They seem to prefer the smaller damselflies. The Cedar Waxwing is a gorgeous bird to look at. I’ve got some great pics of them doing the same on the Swift River, one of which hangs proudly in my living room. IMG_1655aCedar Waxwings are nomadic and usually fly in groups so it’s not like you can go back and see them again, it’s all about the luck and timing. Watching Cedar Waxwings is surely a precious moment!

This will be true of so many of the great  memorable trips I’ve had on the Mill.  I’ve spent many wonderful Sunday mornings here  watching a variety of beautiful birds; Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Green Herons, Eagles, Red-Tail Hawks, Coopers Hawks,  Virginia Rail, Canada Goose, Spotted Sandpipers, Kingfishers,  Goldfinches, Swallows, Robins, Flycatchers, Crows, Killdeer, Swallows, Song Sparrows, Swans, Mergansers, Mallards, Red-headed Woodpeckers , Pileated Woodpeckers, Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, and a Yellow-Rumped Warbler. Each sighting a precious moment.

IMG_0621Everything is about the luck of the day.  In my 12 years on the Mill,  I often wondered why I hadn’t seen a deer. One year I caught one running away from me, too quick to get a shot, but this year (2017) was different. I’ve seen this guy a few times and both times he stayed around long enough to have his portrait taken. Another precious moment!

One trip in late May in 2010 Don and I started our morning as we normally do in Hulberts Pond having our morning coffee and breakfast sandwiches when out of the blue we heard a huge splash! then another and then yet another all from different spots in the pond.  Then out of the blue, one right by my kayak!  We soon realized we were in the middle of them.  They were Carp and it was spawning season.  With the water just a few feet deep throughout the pond it must have been perfect timing and conditions.  Here’s a link to one of the videos I captured from that day. https://youtu.be/Kj_ZrrWiRz8     There were probably about 40 of them paired off, they’d swim side by side quietly for a spell and then they both would convulse so rapidly that the splash would be heard  from across the pond. When they did it aside your kayak you’d think someone hit it with a baseball bat!     A truly precious moment, one I will never forget.

Several years the beavers build dams across a sections of the river that required getting out of the kayak to get over.  In the river this year (2107) there is one that is about 100 feet long holding back about a foot of water.  We have portaged around it and it of course was well worth it.  We’ve also seen a huge dam  that stretched the entire back of the pond.  They have to dam both areas to hold the water back because water does flow from the river into the back of the pond too.   While these dams can ruin a kayak trip I find that they once they are up it takes a real flood to bring them down.  When all else fails just kayak out into the Oxbow to see the marina or it’s a short paddle to the Manhan River.

Beavers are always fun to watch here too. one year paddling upriver, I came face to face with a very big beaver his face just a few feet from mine as he was up on the bank and I lower in my kayak.  He looked down on me as I passed him coming round a bend.  It happened so fast I could not get to my camera fast enough.   Other trips we take our time to watch them swim back and forth slapping their tails in warning that you’re in their territory.    I’ve heard a fellow kayaker tell of seeing bear family up river just before the Route 10 dam, however the closest we’ve come is seeing bear scat on a fallen tree.

IMG_4517We’ve made it a few times all the way up to the dam at Route 10 in Easthampton but only when the river is flooded.  Most years you’ll be stopped at the dam of trees up past the Cathedral.  That’s where I’m at now, the blue dot on the Google Map.  What’s the Cathedral you ask?  🙂 Well it’s the name Don and I have given the area between the blue dot and the first elbow of the Z just below it.  This area is just the most beautiful, spot on the river, as Don would say…  Wunderschon!   Here the trees tower high above leaning into river as if to create high cathedral arches.  This has always been the heart of our happy place.  It’s always quite and peaceful.  I’d like to point out here that my banner picture for this blog is a picture of me in the straw hat enjoying that peacefulness or should I say that precious moment!  The only thing that will make our stay short is if the mosquitoes are biting.  While that happens some times it’s never enough to keep us from returning.

Because Don and I enjoy the Mill so much we are always eager to bring friends and relatives here to show it off.  IMG_2998 11X14In 2014 we made the trip with five of Don’s friends from Germany.  Ludwig, Isabelle, Ula, Yergen, and Phillip were treated with sightings of a Great Blue Heron, a Spotted Sandpipper, a flock of Canada Geese, and we also had the great experience of gliding under a Golden Eagle who’s watchful eye followed us as we passed under.  On another trip in 2011 with Ludwig and Isabelle, we were surprised as we entered “the Cathedral”  to see a great big hornets nest up in the top arches of the trees.  I should mention here that Ludwig is a beekeeper.

IMG_1544Seasons can also help make that precious moments.  Spring to me is the beginning… every year I look forward to the first sings of spring because I know it’s that start of another year of kayaking.  Usually in early April it’s exciting to see the first specs of green in the vast sea of grayish brown that winter seams to leave behind.  The first green fiddle heads poking through or the spray of ground foliage racing to be first.  Summer speaks for itself.  We are so taken by the changes in the river as plants grow.  Precious moments are abound. Sunshine in the trees and cool breezes on a warm morning are what makes kayaking here in summer.  It’s sad though when the water level gets real low and the river grass so gets thick that it makes getting into the Mill nearly impossible. even that is a precious moment.  In fall as in spring there’s also an added benefit of  greater viability for bird watching.  I’d also note that I tend to see more beavers in the spring and fall.  Winter, while I’ve not kayaked on the river, I’ve walked the shores, only to experience another precious moment.  This would be the combination of melting ice and the receding river.  Picture the river flowing high up the banks into the trees and the winter’s chill forms an ice shelf along the shore. Next the river level falls as the Connecticut empties into the ocean and what’s left is a sheet of ice suspended above the water clinging to the trees and bushes.  Now, here comes the sun.  (Gee, that’s one of my favorite songs!)  Well as the sun melts the ice it falls away from the trees!  Crashing ice is heard breaking the silence of the morning.  Another precious moment!

If your up this way be sure to stop by Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary.  There are great trails that run along side the river and Huberts Pond.  There’s even an elevated observation deck for wildlife viewing.  And to the right of the Meadows Conservation Area there is a large Heron Rookery with about 20 nests and in the past it’s had a few Eagles nests as well.  I’ll end with if you enjoy this precious place as much as I do, become a member to support their work. IMG_1507

 

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