Posts Tagged ‘Kayaking in Massachusetts’

Put-in above dam looking towards Chicopee Center

I’ve just about been on every stretch of the Chicopee River that’s kayakable since I first put in with my brothers Ray and Don 12years ago at Red Bridge. The river between Chicopee Center and Chicopee Falls has always eluded me. A few years ago we found a trail of Granby Road but it was very long and steep. Don and I walked it and in my mind we were going to return someday with the kayaks. But it never happened probably because we both knew the carry back up would have been murder.
Then last winter while I was at the Chicopee Library I scouted the river behind its grounds. I found a path down to the corner of the fence and continued through to the newly built bike path. That day I took pictures of the dam and mouth of the Chicopee canal. I took a walk up the bike path along the river until about a hundred yards up I saw a trail that went down the embankment to the waters edge. It looked like a great kayak put in. I said to myself, return I shall. This spring i took Andrea and Don down to see it. I could tell Don was reluctant to come back to give it a try.

I’ve suggested several times this year we should try it and each time we found reasons to go elsewhere. But on this beautiful cool August morning I brought my kayak wheels and there was no talking me out of it. We strapped both kayaks on and descended to that spot. Going down was not that bad.

Yet another Great Blue…

We put in and I immediately knew it was going to be a great paddle. The water just above the dam was quite calm. There was a Great Blue Heron on the opposite shore. He watched us for awhile before flying off with a gak gak gak… There were ducks aplenty, Cormorants, swallows, and more Great Blues along the way. Looking up the embankment on the right were the backs of the businesses and soon the Chicopee Electric Light Department. There was some debris along this side of the river but I am told that the Chicopee River Watershed Council has done a lot of cleanup here. Kudos to Ralph Shrewsbury and his gang!!! I do have to make it to one of their meetings some time…

On the left side going upriver was nothing but green trees. You could guess that there were houses and streets behind them but nothing visible. Was just so nice. The river grass flowing downriver beneath to surface made a finishing touch for a perfect paddle.

River view of UNIROYAL

Seen better days…

Before we saw the old FISK buildings looming in front of us. The FISK later UNIROYAL has been closed for over thirty years now. In its heyday it was a booming tire factory and probably a big polluter of the river. Now, it’s just sitting there waiting for demolition. Looks like nature is trying to reclaim it while waiting for that, but that will take a long time too. For now it is home to birds that we could see from our kayaks and probably, rats, bats, skunks, and whatever else you could imagine.

We made it a little further past the plant to within sight of the FACEMATE tower in Chicopee Falls. Sitting quietly on the shallow pebbles we had gone as far as we could. Maybe when the river is higher we could make it to the falls? Anyway, sitting there for a rest was very nice. We could hear the wreckers working on the FACEMATE buildings making way for the new Senior Center. Gee I’ll get to use it when I retire in a few years! Hope it has a great river view!

Heading back we enjoyed more of the same. The only new addition was the roar of the turbines that were now making electricity at the CELD. Other then that we have the portage back up the embankment to the car to look forward to. 😦 it was in the end not too bad, but Don and I both agreed this would not be one of our frequent kayak spots. But I must say I certainly am glad I found and conquered it! 🙂

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Ready to launch...

There is one word that fully describes Tully Lake – Pristine!  Even though this lake was created when the Army Corps of Engineers finished the dam in 1949 as part of the flood control projects to hold back water from the Millers River which eventually makes it’s way to the Connecticut River.   Pristine may not be the right word for a man made lake but as you drive over the dam heading north from Royalston and look down on the lake the unspoiled beauty is all you see before you! The small park at the launch is very inviting and well kept.  It’s a jewel to behold!  Looking out around the lake it’s water, islands, and trees and nothing else.  I thank my brother Ray for introducing me to kayaking and to this great kayaking spot.  We’ve made the trip up to Tully every year for the past ten at least once a year.

The most inviting islands...

We’ve seen it with a heavy morning fog and in the full glory of autumn.  On lazy summer mornings it’s a fabulous treat to paddle around the coves and islands.  So much to explore… and when you want to get back next time to that special spot you found the trip before it’s sometimes impossible to find it thinking it was just around this bend or that island!  It can get confusing.  There is a great campsite here too. You’ll have to carry your gear in though as only tents are allowed.  There were times when we were paddling by early in the morning and the smell of bacon cooking over the campfire was just too much to bear.

Alone on an island...

The islands are great too… small in size, some have great little beaches and small trails to get from one end to the other.  I’ve often though that the perfect day would be to make the trip alone and bring a lawn chair and lunch and spend the day reading on one of these private islands.

We’ve not ever seen a lot of birds in this neck of the woods but there have been other great sightings. One in particular was the time we happened upon two very large snapping turtles interacting with each other. Your just amazed at the power and grace as they tumble at the surface of the water.  We saw them at the cove where Lawrence Brook feeds the lake.

Megan at Doane's Falls

Often we’ll park the kayaks here and take a hike up the side of the brook to Doane’s Falls.  A beautiful falls you’ve just got to see and enjoy.  It was nice seeing Megan enjoy the falls as much as she did.  While hiking up to the falls there was great field stone wall in the woods.  One can only wonder who built this wall with not much more help then a team of horses and his back.

Heading up north from the lake is Tully River and Long Pond.  This river and pond are quite peaceful as they meander north through some wonderful countryside.  A few years it was a bit tough to get over a small beaver dam, I think the poor beaver must of had trouble  keeping his dam in tact as kayakers do visit daily.

Morning mist...

Once early this season Don and I did the trip to Long Pond leaving Chicopee at 3:30 AM to be at the put in before daybreak.  That was a great experience. Eerie at first as the dark of night changed to dark blue with the trees taking form little by little.  Then a misty dawn opens our vision to see more and more as the light creeps in.  The first ducks are seen on a peninsula,,,, they were probably sleeping there all night.

There are hiking trails all around Tully Lake and Long Pond.  We often stop while on Long Pong to walk a bit.  This early morning while walking I heard a movement, I looked around but I missed him. Don who was walking ahead of me did however see a large buck jumping off into the woods.  That’s why I got up so early! I wanted to catch wildlife!  Oh well, there will be another time.

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Updated September 2016

For me the West Reservoir is Cape Cod. It’s a beautiful dammed up cedar swamp that is in the middle of the Bell’s Neck Conservation Area.  I found this gem in my Paddling Cape Cod book.  There are two great put-ins.  One on Bells Neck Road which is a small sandy beach area on the west side of the pond, the other is on the east which is accessed from Depot Road look for a small Hiking sign for the entrance.  A small rutted dirt road leads through a cranberry bog to the parking area. Here the first thing that you’ll explore is the Herring Ladder. We’ve seen herring in the ladder on a few occasions, the kids really enjoy seeing them.  The ladder and an overflow empty into the Herring River. We’ve kayaked there as well so look for my blog if you’d like to read about it.  When launching at the parking area the best spot is over to the left where a small channel empties into the run. As you enter the reservoir from underneath the treed canopy the beauty of this wonderful place opens up. The Reservoir is small enough to see from one end to the other but big enough to allow a large variety of experiences. There were no houses in sight of the water when we first started kayaking here, now there is one. Many times there may be no other humans  other  than yourself. The shore is green with pitch pine, black oak, white oak, sassafras, and red maple. There is a greenish white fungus growing on many of the trees. Along shore sweet pepper-bush, bayberry, and swamp azalea are all you’ll see. In the water you see arrow arum, and reedy weeds. It was in the middle of a large patch of the reedy weeds that I sat with Andrea one summer morning when we noticed a black bird flying in front of our kayak from reed to reed. It wasn’t just a blackbird; it had a red and yellow stripe on the shoulder of its wing. Later to find it was a Red-winged Blackbird; the beginning of my bird watching career had begun. On that trip, we also saw Mute Swans, Painted Turtles, and Double Crested Cormorants.

Here’s lookin’ at you…

Each year we visit this gem about 3 times, and sometimes I go it alone when no one else wants to get up at six o’clock! It seems that it’s on some of these solitary trips I’ve had some of my best experiences. It’s so quiet all alone on the reservoir in the morning, alone not a soul in sight watching the  sun rise, lighting up the shoreline and watching the birds.

On one trip in 2011 I saw three Ospreys. I sat under underneath one that sat in one of the stunted oaks; I sat just watching him watch me. Every once in a while he called out with his protecting screech as he may have had a nest near by. I’ve read a great book about Ospreys called “Return of the Osprey” by David Gessner. David’s book taught me a lot about Ospreys, you have to be on “Osprey Time” to watch these guys. Wait long enough and you might catch one plunging into the water feet first after a meal.  Let me tell you it’s great seeing them go in and experiencing the power of the liftoff is amazing.  I’ve caught a great sequence on camera that I’ll post on my Nantucket Sound blog.


IMG_7794aAs I sat alone on this day, several Mute Swans came gliding into the reservoir, honking loud enough for anyone on the reservoir to hear, but it was just me. There were three Cormorants sunning themselves and a Gray Catbird singing a symphony in a nearby tree, what a beautiful complicated song he sings! If you have 44 seconds turn your speakers up and give him a listen!  I captured this great little movie. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jENjLTvplb8

Now, if you’ve just taken the time to view my little recording of the Gray Catbird just give this one a listen to, it’s from Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology, it’s about 5 minutes long and completely blew me away!  https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=KRgvpjcSNcM&feature=youtu.be  So now I wonder just who my little Catbird was mimicking? I thought I was amazed then, I can’t wait until I hear another one!

Great Blue sunning…

On another morning I just drove out to the herring run while the rest of the world was sleeping. Alone at the run I noticed something out of the corner of my eye up in a tree… Holy mackerel! It was huge! It look prehistoric… It took me a few minutes to figure out that it was a Great Blue Heron sunning himself in the morning sun. Of all the Great Blues I’ve seen, never have I seen one with it’s wings turned out like this! I wish today that I had a better camera then.

Osprey with Herring...

Osprey with Herring…

Another morning trip I saw an osprey land in the middle of the reservoir on a stump. Great!!! I made it over to him as fast as I could paddle, and as I neared I began taking pictures. It was breezy and wavy and I was afraid I’d scare him off so I took it slow. Just before he flew off I managed to get a great shot. This one is hanging in my living room! Satisfied I got a good shot I made it across the pond to take a few more pictures.

Osprey with half a Herring!!!

Then looking at the pictures on my camera I saw he had a herring in its grip! How exciting! What a shot! Still early I began shooting a Red-winged Blackbird along the shore. Then as luck would have it I saw the osprey flying back. Wow, another chance for another shot. As I got closer I saw it! The herring was now a half a herring! With the waves I was lucky to get the shot I did!

Painted Turtles having a get-together…

Painted turtles are also very abundant here. Early mornings you’ll see them poking their little noses up all over the reservoir. Then when the sun comes out they’ll climb up on logs to warm themselves. What a sight. Trying to get close enough to get a picture without scaring them back in the water is not that easy. On one trip I saw a deceased stink-pot turtle (musk turtle). He had been tangled in a fishing line. So sad…

Every return trip I make here is always rewarded with something special. This,,, is the type of neighborhood I’d love to retire in.

All the way across the reservoir there is a nice beach area to get a stretch with a short walk. Walking down a nearby trail with my brother Don we found a deer spraying station off the road. That was pretty neat. Looks like they lured the deer in with food and while they were feeding they got automatically sprayed for ticks. Through the years I’ve kayaked here with many members of my family, mostly my daughters Danielle, Andrea and Megan and my brother Don, but  also many other family members and friends. Once Danielle asked why do I always take her here? Well cause I love it?!?!?

I just keep going back and I must say I’ve even found that I have a few favorite coves to hang out in. On my August 24, 2016 visit in this one day I watched about 8 Osprey, 12 Great Blues (many were adolescents) , a Green Heron, a Black-crowned Night Heron, a young Mute Swan, a Baltimore Oriole, a Sandpiper, a Great Black-Backed Gull, an Egret, and a few Painted Turtles! Outstanding!  The kids have all gotten older and I’ve even had the opportunity to kayak here with my grandson Jake!  It’s just the best.   Here are a few new pics to enjoy!


I’ll keep coming back to this little gem!

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Destruction on Arcadia Blvd.

It’s only fitting that I write about this little jewel of a lake this weekend. We are on the way home from our vacation in Aruba where we heard the news via text messages that my daughter Andrea and her son Jake were caught in a tornado that was just hitting Springfield. How horrific it was hearing how she was stuck in her car not able to get home to her little house overlooking this lake, trees falling across every road she tried, hail beating down on the car and lightning crashing all around. Somehow she made it and with the sky turning a weird yellow and winds kicking back up she grabbed little Jake and her two cats and made it into her basement to wait it out round two. Luckily they survived with the house in tact! She lost a tree, and a fence,,, she didn’t know where the tree went!!! Her neighbors were not so lucky as starting three houses down the destruction was widespread. Arcadia Boulevard was just the nicest street in Springfield. Now it will take years before it back to its original splendor. She took us to see first hand today and we were in tears. It looked like a war zone, there is no other way to describe it. Pictures can’t do this justice but to give you a sense here are pictures I took walking from Island Pond Road to Andrea, Jeff and Jake’s house Saturday June 4th, 2011.


Happy kayaking couple!

If I may, I’ll take the liberty to describe this lakes’ beauty…Her house sits high above the lake with a great view. Jeff and I have cleared a path down to the lake and he has removed brush to increase the view. We’ve launched from across the lake from both the small park directly opposite and from the boat launch further down, both not far from the Roosevelt Ave. Bridge. We’ve explored the entire lake finding that there is more to this lake then you would expect. One of the first trips we did was towards the Watershops Mills. We explored her neighbors’ waterfront properties and also enjoyed her feathered neighbors! It’s interesting how inventive people get when developing their water access. The variety of birds we’ve seen here is probably the largest seen anywhere.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

I saw my first Night-crowned Black Heron, Green and Great Blue Herons, Swans, Double-crested Cormorants, Canada Geese, Great White Egrets, Osprey, Mallards, and Tree Swallows. Oh, and how could I forget the Rock Doves hanging out on the bridge!

On the trip down to the mills you’ll pass by Springfield College and the beautiful home that looks like the Dean’s residence. There’s a railroad bridge with rope swing if your brave enough to jump from that height! There is an old barbed wire barrier to keep boaters out of the mill area but doing a limbo in a kayak will get you through! Other then the old brick buildings not much to see.

The Watershop Mills

This is where the lake ends and I believe begins its underground flow through the city on its way to the Connecticut River.

Kayaking the other direction offers more views of lakefront properties. Many have rowboats, kayaks and even pontoon boats and a variety of docks and waterfront styles. There is one house that even has a full sized tennis court. It’s fenced in but I have to wonder how many balls they still loose. There is another place that has a very large concrete patio that looks more like a World War II bunker!

The camp

Camp Massasoit is a nice place to stop for a rest. There is a nice dock, beach and camp area. A sign asks you to not visit the area when camp is in session in July and August.

My favorite area is towards the end of the lake where there are a few small islands; one that has its end upturned 90 degrees.

Great Egret

It’s down this end that Andrea, Don and I watched a Great Egret feeding up close and personal! That day was perfect; we saw the egret, a swan protective of it’s brood, the osprey, mallards, and great blues. Two weeks ago Andrea, Don and I made another trip down this end. Although we didn’t see as much the water was a foot or two higher then we’d ever seen it and this allowed us to get further into the end of the lake. It became so very private and if it’s not to corny I’d say cozy!!! There were a couple of swans hanging out, looked like it could have been right in front of their nesting site back in the bushes. There was also a Canada Goose up in her nest, I’m sure she was warming an egg. One other thing grabbed my envy here… a house. One house in this private little area with a foot path to the water with a perfect little dock and row boat. Oh, I can dream can’t I?

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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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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 when I was a kid he told me that there were Indians that died there.  He told me 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 you 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 now 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 to see them?  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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