Saturday, March 26, 2016


It's a busy river, one of the small Connecticut rivers with cut banks with remains of hardwood trees forming piles and tangles in the water.  The bottom varies in depth every few seconds, a sandbar here, deep water there, and shallow hard packed gravel in other places.  Even the put-in was cantankerous, a small steep spot on the bank about ten yards upriver from a low head dam.  I hate low head dams - the back flow on the downstream sides kill people, trapping them until long after they have died.  Those things give me the willies.

I head upstream into river that I've not seen.  There is a good current, but it is only too fast to paddle against when it is also too shallow to paddle in.  I don't need to wade until I get to my first log crossing.  After that, it is a bit of wading every few hundred yards.  Like I said, a busy river.  No time for contemplation, eyes watching the bottom, watching the bank, peering up around the next bend, watching for animals.  I flush a couple of great blue herons and a few pairs of mergansers.  The next log crossing is an over-under...the canoe goes under the log, I go over the top.

This river was a mill river...cutlery mills mostly.  It doesn't show the beating that it took from metal and plating operations, but I can sense it.  It still runs through the towns that built up around those mills, so it doesn't get a full break.  I decide to age my photos when I get done...the river has something old about it that doesn't come through in the camera.  I suppose an old photo makes the river appear the way I would rather see it.
great blue heron in the reeds
The route splits.  A long straight channel to the west - it appears to be a man-made channel - it is too straight.  The east channel twists and it twists away from my view in a hundred yards.  I end up wading a fair amount of the west channel, until I decide to go back and see what the east side has to offer.  It is trickier, fast water winding through bends with a good amount of downed wood.  Enough. 
In this current, one would normally expect 2:1...twice as long up as it takes to return.  But, with so much wood in the river, the return is not much faster.  But, it is a chance to play with ferrying the canoe...aiming it and back paddling so that the river current does most of the work.  Done right, it can be so graceful that there is no more effort than an occasional dip of the paddle.

It is a round trip of less than 5 miles.  It takes 2-1/2 hours.

Quinnipiac River upstream from Quinnipiac Street.

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