Posts Tagged ‘Kayaking in Massachusetts’

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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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 so 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 its 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 kryptonite 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 per-arranged drop off point and turned over the abandon property a few days later.


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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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