Connecticut River paddle

Passing the Vermont town of Barnet.
Passing the Vermont town of Barnet.

We just returned from our third annual Connecticut River canoe trip [photos].  Two years ago we began at the Canadian border, visiting the river’s headwaters and the four Connecticut lakes; we put in at North Stratford (skipping the lakes and 60 miles of the river’s life as a shallow stream), and paddled for two days.  Last year we put in where we left off, and paddled for four days, ending at the Gilman Dam.  This year we launched below the dam and paddled for four days to Bedell Bridge State Park. Next year we hope to reach home! The trip gets better every year, as the Connecticut River Paddlers’ Trail expands its network of campsites and published an outstanding new map. Read on!

Once again we had lovely weather, pretty scenery, and an impressive array of wildlife. Although the first day was gray and sprinkling on and off, it never rained hard enough to dampen spirits, and we had bright sunshine the next three days. We enjoyed every campsite with a campfire and swimming, and even a rope swing!

The challenge this year was all the dam portages. (Hmm, you could read that sentence two ways.)  We had to carry around Moore Dam the first day, around Comerford Dam and McIndoe Falls Dam the second day, and around Dodge Falls Dam the third day. Tiring and time-consuming. (Hint: go get ice cream at Paul’s Whistle Stop near McIndoe Falls portage 😉  The good news: no more portages left between there and our home!

Comerford dam and portage; Andy brings the last load.
Comerford dam and portage; Andy brings the last load.
One of two Bald Eagles sighted below Comerford Dam.
One of two Bald Eagles sighted below Comerford Dam.

I continue to be impressed by the amount of bird life. There are the usual ducks and flocks of Canada geese, and numerous small birds I don’t recognize, to be sure. We saw lots of bald eagles (2 on first day, 3 on second day, 2 on third day), many great blue herons, many kingfishers, two snowy egrets, three loons, one osprey, some sort of gulls, and several other large soaring birds of prey I couldn’t identify.  I even saw a bald eagle soaring above downtown Wells River. Along the shore I spotted raccoon and otter tracks. Indeed, there were several places the raccoons make a practice of raiding the corn fields (gnawing down a whole stalk, dragging it to the water’s edge, then eating the ears of corn).

What surprised me was the lack of other boats. We saw a few motorboats and even a rowing shell (mostly on Moore and Comerford reservoir), but only once or twice did we encounter other canoeists or kayakers. Given the beauty of this stretch of river, the available map and guides, and the sunny late-summer weekend conditions, I was surprised not to see more. (Not that I mind having the river and campsites to ourselves!)

We rented canoes from Hemlock Pete in Haverhill. Our route:

Next year: Bedell Bridge to our home!

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

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