Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Millpond

It is nothing but delightful even before putting my canoe in the water.  The millpond is just beginning to surround itself in autumn colors, the trees showing reds and golds mixed in with the greens of late changers.  An abandoned red brick mill is across the way near the dam that once gave it power and held (and still holds) the water at a constant level.  I greet two older guys who have brought their newspapers down to the waters edge and a couple that is killing some time waiting for a baptism service to start at a nearby church.  It is an exceptionally fine morning.

Somersville Millpond

I start by paddling the millpond, which is far from being round.  Instead it is a long pond with several arms radiating out and edged with trees, high shrubs and a narrow marsh of cattails among other things.  Having determined which arms are dead ends, I head upstream on the Scantic River against a barely perceptible current. The river has its own dead ends and sometimes at these junctions, the main channel narrows and the decision becomes a guess.

I may not get far today, I am using my camera about as much as I am using my paddle.

Scantic River
The river continues to narrow, and with it comes more and more deadfalls laying across the water.  Most of these require nothing more than standard canoe contortions to get around or under.  I stop to admire a tree that has been half cut by beaver.  If they haven't abandoned the project, it should be down soon.  I always take beaver sign as a good omen.

I hear rushing water around the bend - the sound of a small cascade or dam.  I find a solidly built beaver dam, some two feet high and built using a large tree that had fallen in the water, the beaver adding branches to the 20 inch diameter trunk.  I get out and slide up and over it on the right end and enter a beautiful and fully developed beaver pond.  The millpond was nice, but it had nothing on this.  Standing dead trees, drowned by the increase in water depth are surrounded by what seems to be the most diverse collection of plant life that I've seen.  In this setting, the idea that beaver do damage reaches absurd.  Here, by building a simple dam across the river, they have created a unique and stunning botanical garden unlike any other.

Beaver Dam

Beaver Pond
I continue on and for the first 300 yards, I lose and refind the main channel more than once.  It's easy to see, once that you've seen it, but seeing it in the first place is the hard part.

Beaver Pond

I continue up the river at least as far as I have already come.  It stays narrow and deadfall contortions come with regularity but the river also meanders very tightly, at times nearly doubling back on itself.  I turn back just short of two hours out when houses begin to appear on the banks. 

Almost back to the millpond, I find a heavy earthware jug on the bottom and retrieve it by pushing it to the shallows with my paddle.

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