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Connecticut River Reach 18

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Last Updated: 5/2018
Vernon Dam (141.7) to Turners Falls Dam (121.6) 

Description
     If you are looking for an all day paddle, this is the paddle for you!  For the rest of you, there are alternate take-out/put-in's to shorten the trip.
      The first time I paddled this reach I was in High School and our day paddle included portaging the Vernon dam.  It rained all day and the three of us got soaking wet.  My Dad came and picked up us Wet Rats in Turners Falls and brought us home.  I'm sure your paddle will be much more fun.
        Many People have told me this is their favorite reach on the Connecticut River.  I am not sure how much of the river they had actually paddle but certainly this is one of the most beautiful ones.

STATISTICS

Skill Level:            Class 1 & 2 - mostly flatwater
Estimated Time:    7 hours (with meal stops make it 9 hours)
Reach Distance:  20.1 miles
USGS Map: Bernardston, MA, Brattleboro, VT, Greenfield, MA  (7.5’x15’)
Railroad Bridge - Mile 134.6

King Phillips Hill, Northfield - Mile 134.8
       King Philip's Hill, just upriver of the Route 10 bridge and on the right (west) bank, is a historic site off Old Bernardston Road in Northfield, MA. In 1675 the Wampanoag chief Metacom, also called "King Philip" by English colonists, is said to have held council here during King Philip's War.

Route 10 Road Bridge - Mile 132.7

Munns Ferry Campsite - Mile 130.3
Located on the left (east) bank, Munns Ferry in Northfield is a small camping area for boaters and canoeists only owned and maintained by the power company. Tent sites are $22/night and the Adirondack shelter is $30/night.   Reservations will be taken beginning the first Wednesday in April, call: 413-863-9300. Munns Ferry closes Columbus Day.


Kidds Island - Mile 129.5
      A small island in the Connecticut River, about 2130 feet in length.  Legend has it that Captain Kidd, the infamous privateer, buried treasure on this island.  If you find the treasure be sure to buy me a coffee and tell the tale.

Munns Ferry Details
Captain Kidd Wikipedia
[1] Vernon Dam - Portage - Miles 141.9 - 141.7
Positions
       Take-Out: 42-46.30 N 72-30.85 W
       Altitude: 217 feet
       Put- In: 42-46.20 N 72-30.96 W
       Altitude: 181 feet
Description: 
Take Out above dam on river right (west) side  above the barrier. 
Follow the ramp way up to Governor Hunt Road.  Follow the portage signs along the river.
 Put in on beach below the dam across from the Tavern.
Nearest Launch Address:  
Take-Out: 270 Governor Hunt Road, Vernon, VT 05354 ‎
Put-In:      101 Governor Hunt Road, Vernon, VT 05354
Put-In Directions (10.9 miles, 15 minutes):
From Interstate 91 Exit 28 to Route 10 toward Northfield/Greefield:
  1. After getting off the highway, head north on Route 10.
  2. At mile 2.5, turn left onto Route 142 North.
  3. At mile 6.5 you enter the state of Vermont.
  4. At mile 10.8, turn right onto Governor Hunt Road.
  5. The dam will come into view quickly.  At mile 10.9, turn right onto a sandy road that goes to a beach.  If you have an ordinary car, you may want to park on the road and carry the short distance in to the water.
A Close up of the Portage
The Take-Out above the barrier - River Right
Follow the portage signs along Governor Hunt Road.
The river drops 36 feet.  There is a boat launching area, a beach, and a tavern across from the picnic area.
​[3] Riverview Picnic & Recreation Area - Mile 127.0
Position: 42-36.77 N 72-28.77 W
Altitude: 181 feet
Boat Launch:
Car Top Launch near power plant discharge.
Nearest Launch Address:
98 Ferry Rd, Northfield, MA 01360

        Located on river left (east) bank, is a great alternate put-in/take-out or just a nice place to take a break, eat a meal, and stretch your legs.
French King Rock - Mile 126.2
      Located in the middle of the river directly under the crossing power lines.  It is sometimes underwater based on water level.  The three towns Erving, Gill and Northfield meet at the rock.

French King Bridge - Mile 125.6
       Named after the rock, the French King Bridge, aka FKB, was opened to traffic on 10 September 1932. The bridge was awarded the "Most Beautiful Steel Bridge" in 1932 by the American Institute of Steel Construction. It was rebuilt in 1992, and refurbished again between 2008 and 2010.  There is a parking area at both ends of the bridge.  Walk the side walk and get treated to a beautiful view looking north.
The Millers River enters just below the bridge on the left (east) side of the river.  When the rivers are high from rain this area can be turbulant.
The river now turns north briefly then due west through what is called the Horse Race before and then west southwest with a penninsula on your right.  Pass through the Narrows into Bartons Cove there is a small beach on your right.

Barton Cove Campground - Mile 122.5
       If you want to camp here for the night, then turn east under Barton Island following the land until you get to a small cove where you can pull in and register for the night. I suggest you ask for a site at the very end near small beach, bathroom, and on the water.  Campground open (Memorial Day to Labor Day)  Reservations call 413-863-9300

Barton Cove State Boat Ramp Mile 122.2
       This is the take-out for this paddle.  If you are continuing on, you can request a portage ride around the dam area. For the Barton Cove shuttle service, groups with more than four boats are asked to call one month in advance to plan ahead for portage dates. On most days, portages will be provided within 15 to 90 minutes of the boater's telephone call. Paddlers should have all gear unloaded and wait by their craft.  Call 413-659-3761 to request a pick up.
Camping, Portage & More
 [4] Barton Cove State Boat Ramp - Mile 122.2
Position: 42-36.46 N 72-32.50 W 
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Boat Launch:
Paved State Boat Ramp. Parking for at least 20 vehicles. Tiolets available.
Nearest Launch Address: 
99 Cove View, Gill, MA 01354
Put-In/Take-Out Directions (3.5 miles, 5 minutes)
From Interstate 91 Exit 27 Route 2 East toward Boston
  1. Merge onto Route 2
  2. At mile 3.4, turn right onto Cove View.  There is a green public boat ramp sign.  The ramp and parking lot is visible from Rt 2.
[5] Turners Falls Dam - Portage - Miles 122.2 - 141.7
Positions
       Take-Out: 42-36.46 N 72-32.50 W
       Altitude: 179 feet
       Put- In: 42-34.80 N 72-34.50 W
       Altitude: 110 feet
Description: 
This 3.5 mile portage is much too long for a quick carry.  Fortunately, the power company, H2O Power + FirstLight, provides a service for paddlers.  Click below for their website:


Nearest Launch Address:  
Take-Out: 99 Cove View, Gill, MA 01354 ‎
Put-In:      101 Poplar Street, Turners Falls, MA 01376

Portage General Information:
General Information:
  1. Portages around the dam are available seven days per week during daylight hours for canoes and kayaks.
  2. Due to the unpredictability of river travel times for boaters, portages are performed on an as needed basis for groups with four or fewer boats.
  3. Groups with more than four boats are asked to call one month in advance to plan ahead for portage dates.
  4. On most days, portages will be provided within 15 to 90 minutes of the boater’s telephone call. Paddlers should have all gear unloaded and wait by their craft.
H20 Power + FirstLight
​​
Portage Porcedure:
From Interstate 91 Exit 27 Route 2 East toward Boston
  1. As you paddle into Barton Cove, look for the colorful rack of rental boats to help you find the Canoe and Kayak Rental area.
  2. Paddle to Barton Cove Canoe & Kayak Rental Area and unload gear from boats.
  3. Call 413-659-3761 to request a pick up.
    ​Barton Cove is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. During closed hours or off-season paddlers need to use their own phones.
  4. Portages drop paddlers off at Poplar Street in Montague City. Pick Up and Drop Off Points can be found on the map below and the imbeded Google Earth below.
A Close up of the 3.5 mile Portage
Stebbins Island - Mile 140.8
       If you are a through paddler the campsite available may be of interest.  Since the 1970s the power company has provided primitive camping on the river. TransCanada Hydro Northeast, which owns the majority of the river’s dams can be contacted with any questions at (802) 463-2323 or email matthew_cole@transcanada.com

Unnamed Island - Mile 139.3
        About a mile and a half down river of Stebbins Island is another island towards the right (west) shore.  We could not find a name for this low lying island.  If the river rises fast, flooding may occur making this a poor site for camping.  Pass it on either side.

Bridge Supports - Mile 137.0
       Pass between five concrete remains of a bridge supports.  It was once used for the railroad.
Mud Turtle Monument - Mile 136.2
Crossing the corner of 3 states!
    A six by six granite block with faces marked as "MASS", "VT", "NH" and elevation of 177 feet is submerged in the Connecticut River marking the survey location.  It was above water until the Turner's Fall dam was raised in the 1960s. Apparently this monument was last seen in October 1969 when the dam was undergoing some maintenance work.
     The states have put up a monument on the Vermont shore where Massachusetts meets it as a replacement with inscription.  Stop, climb the bluff, and read this historic piece of polished granite.
Mud Turtle Monument
     This state boat ramp in Northfield offers water access for both car top paddlers and power boaters. It's located on the left (east) bank.  Just down river you will pass under the Schell Bridge (135.1).  See article below.
[2] Pauchaug Brook State Boat Launch - Mile 135.4
Position: 42-42.94 N 72-27.15 W
Altitude: 185 feet
Boat Launch:
Large paved parking lot with an excellent paved ramp.
Nearest Launch Address:
268 Main St, Northfield, MA 01360

Schell Bridge - Mile 135.1
        In 1903 Schell Memorial Bridge, a 515 foot long steel cantilever truss bridge, was donated to the town of Northfield by one of its leading citizens, Francis R. Schell, who hoped to obtain easy access from his chateau in downtown Northfield to the East Northfield Railroad Station. Schell Bridge is the third oldest of five Pennsylvania Truss Bridges and was designed by Edward S. Shaw, an important bridge engineer in Massachusetts from 1873 to 1919. Up until its closing, in 1985 Schell Bridge provided the town with easy transportation between the two sides of the village, which is divided by the Connecticut River.In 1985 Schell Bridge was closed because it had deteriorated too far for safe use. Due to lack of funding, the bridge had not been adequately maintained.
         MassDOT devised a plan to rehabilitate the bridge, but the town could not justify the costs of assuming responsibility for maintaining the rehabilitated structure. In 1987, with no group willing to take on the responsibility of the bridge, the decision was made to tear it down. Demolition bids were made and contracts awarded in 1999, but the bridge has thus far not been torn down. 
Friends of Schell Bridge
Turners Falls-Gill Bridge - Mile 121.6
        Before the bridge was constructed, a ferry known as "Bissel's Ferry" operated approximately a quarter-mile upriver from this site. In 1878, the ferry was replaced by an earlier bridge, known as the Upper or 'Red' Suspension Bridge -- distinguishing it from the "Lower Suspension Bridge," at the current downriver site of the Turners Falls Road Bridge -- which was 563 feet long.  Damaged beyond repair in the devastating Connecticut Valley flood of 1936, it was replaced by the current bridge in 1938 and torn down in 1942 to recover materials for the war effort; its piers remain on the river banks.
       The current structure began construction on May 17, 1937 and was completed in September 1938. The bridge was dedicated on Saturday, September 10, 1938. By 2010, the road deck of the bridge had become riddled with potholes and uneven pavement. A major renovation project began in summer 2010 and finished in 2014 at an estimated cost of $40.7 million. 
Wikipedia
Turners Falls Gill Bridge