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Westfield River - West Branch Reach 1

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Last Updated: 12/2017
STATISTICS
 
Skill Level:         Too shallow to paddle when low.  Class 2 and 3 when high
Estimated Time:   Keystone Arches to Huntington -  
Distance:               30.8 miles
USGS Maps: East Lee, MA, Chester, MA,, MA,
 West Branch Source to 
 
Description
            This section of the West Branch of the Westfield River cannot be paddled most of the year.  From the Keystone Arches to Huntington has been paddled when the water is high. If any of you reading this know different, please let us know.  All the access points listed, from 1 to 5 (source to Huntington), are primarily good for fishers. 

​        Be prepared if you wish to venture down these stretches.  But, the reward of catching fish that have not seen a fisher for some time is great!  I encourage you to carefully study the Google earth and USGS Maps below.  Print them out and have a great adventure.
          Also, the trail along the river where the Keystone Arches are worth the hike.  There are pools where locals swim on a hot day.

[4] Chester Jacobs Ladder - Mile 31.1 West
Position: 42-15.84 N 72-57.77 W
Altitude: 520 feet
Access: 
Paved Rest Area with plenty of parking.  Good access for fishing.  Good access to launch a boat if river is high.
Nearest Launch Address:  
488 Huntington Road Chester, MA 0101{cke_protected}{C}%3C!%2D%2DEndFragment%2D%2D%3E
Put-In Directions (17.8 miles, 24 minutes):
From the Mass Pike Exit 2, Lee, MA:
  1. At the end of the ramp, turn left at the stop light.
  2. Take Route 20 East at the next stop light toward Becket.
  3. At mile 16.3, pass through the center of Chester.
  4. At mile 17.8, turn left into a paved Rest Area.
[1] Becket Center - Mile 42.2 West
Position: 42-19.97 N 73-04.97 W
Altitude: 1188 feet
Access: 
Park and access at the end of Main Street where Yokum Brook meet Depot Brook.
Nearest Launch Address:  
3431 Main Street, Becket, MA 01223
Put-In Directions (10.1 miles, 18 minutes):
From the Mass Pike Exit 2, Lee, MA:
  1. At the end of the ramp, turn left at the stop light.
  2. Take Route 20 East at the next stop light toward Becket.
  3. At mile 4.1, turn left onto Becket Road.  The road goes up hill through wooded areas.
  4. At mile 6.0, Becket Road turns slightly left and becomes Yokum Pond Road.
  5. At mile 7.7, merge, slight right, onto County Road.
  6. At mile 8.6, turn left onto Route 8 North.
  7. At mile 10.1, in the center of Becket, turn left onto Main Street.
  8. Go to the end of the street and park.
[5] Federal Street Huntington - Mile 25.5 West
Position: 42-14.07 N 72-52.74 W
Altitude: 354 feet
Access: 
Located in town, there is plenty of diagonal parking along the river.  Follow the grass area down to the river.
Nearest Launch Address:  
2 Federal Street, Huntington, MA 01050
Put-In Directions (23.0 miles, 31 minutes):
From the Mass Pike Exit 2, Lee, MA:
  1. At the end of the ramp, turn left at the stop light.
  2. Take Route 20 East at the next stop light toward Becket.
  3. At mile 16.3, pass through the center of Chester.
  4. At mile 23.0, turn left onto Main Street.
  5. Continued around the corner onto Federal Street.
  6. Find a place to park diagonally and access the river along the grass areas.
[2] Bancroft Road - Town Hill Road Bridge - Mile 38.7 West
Position: 42-18.57 N 73-01.92 W
Altitude: 895 feet
Access: 
Find roadside parking nearby and climb down to the river.
Nearest Launch Address:  
26 Munn Road, Becket, MA 01223
Put-In Directions (14.2 miles, 24 minutes):
From the Mass Pike Exit 2, Lee, MA:
  1. At the end of the ramp, turn left at the stop light.
  2. Take Route 20 East at the next stop light toward Becket.
  3. At mile 4.1, turn left onto Becket Road.  The road goes up hill through wooded areas.
  4. At mile 6.0, Becket Road turns slightly left and becomes Yokum Pond Road.
  5. At mile 7.7, merge, slight right, onto County Road.
  6. At mile 8.6, turn right onto Route 8 South.
  7. At mile 11.3, turn left onto Wade Inn Road.
  8. At mile 11.7, turn left onto Hopkins Lane.
  9. At mile 12.7, turn left onto Bancroft Road.
  10. At mile 14.3, arrive at the small bridge over the river.  Munn Road is just before the bridge on your right.
        Everyone is overwhelmed by the beauty of the Arches when seeing them for the first time.  But this amazement ultimately launches a hunger for the story of their creation.  What burning desire would cause men to place these evocative structures in such a landscape?
       The Western Railroad of Massachusetts radically changed the world when opened in 1841.  It was the world’s first adhesion gradient rail line to cross a mountain range.  It was the highest (1,459 ft. ASL) and longest (150 mi.) railway ever built; almost doubling the length of the previous title holder.  It included the longest bridge in the world over the Connecticut River (1,264 ft.)  It moved railroads from novelty to the forefront of modern transportation.  Venture capital for canal projects dried up quickly after its opening.
     The Western was the first to show what railroads must become in America; speculative, long distance, crossing state lines and surmounting natural obstacles.  This single project irrefutably proved the efficacy of the fledgling science. The genius behind the line was Maj. George Washington Whistler, father of famed painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler.
        It was the first major infrastructure project to employ large numbers (up to 3000) of immigrant laborers, setting the model for the building of America.  Mostly Irish, pre-potato famine, these people fled to escape religious persecution.  The Irish Catholic population of Boston had tripled from 1830 to 1840. 
      The Birnie Brothers, stone masons contracted to construct 27 bridges, culverts and walls in the mountain section, including these Keystone Arches, and many in their employ, were Scottish.
          While there are three earlier American stone railway spans, The Carrollton Viaduct, 1829, The Thomas Viaduct, 1835, both on the Baltimore & Ohio, and The Canton Viaduct, 1835 on the Boston & Providence, these Keystone Arches are the first cluster of stone arch railroad bridges built in America.  At 10 original bridges it may well be the largest cluster ever built.

           For the complete history and a trail map click below:
Keystone Arches
[3] Keystone Arch Bridge Access - Mile 35.6 West
Position:  42-18.77 N 72-59.63 W
Altitude: 704 feet
Access: 
 There is a parking area at the beginning of the dirt road.  You can also drive down a ways and park.  The road gets rough so keep this in mind.  Follow the trail to the Springtime highwater put-in.
Nearest Launch Address:   
{cke_protected}{C}%3C!%2D%2DStartFragment%2D%2D%3EHerbert Cross Road, Chester, MA 01011{cke_protected}{C}%3C!%2D%2DEndFragment%2D%2D%3E
Put-In Directions (18.1 miles, 27 minutes):
From the Mass Pike Exit 2, Lee, MA:
  1. At the end of the ramp, turn left at the stop light.
  2. Take Route 20 East at the next stop light toward Becket.
  3. At mile 16.3, turn left onto Middlefield Road, in the center of Chester.
  4. At mile 17.6, cross railroad tracks, pass Chester Elementary School on right, and cross over the west branch of the river.
  5. At mile 18.1, arrive at Herbert Cross Road on your left.  There is a parking area at the beginning of the dirt road. 
  6. At mile 17.2, turn left into the large Rest Area.