Favorite River Paddles

            Not everyone likes river paddling because it requires new skills and more organization.  If you want to become more adventurous then you will need to overcome you fears.  One definition of courage is: “You feel the fear but you do it anyway.”
Consider the following:
  1. You will need to be able to read a river.  That is, you will need to understand the flow of water around obstructions and how to avoid them.  You also need to understand how water will be deepest on the outside of a river or through other natural shapes of the landscape.  Finally you need to identify and avoid dangers like strainers etc.  Find a good book on this subject and hang out with experienced paddlers who can bring you along and teach.
  2. You will need to learn your paddle skills for a river trip.  The proper strokes when canoeing is essential. Kayaks are more forgiving especially with steering because you have a paddle at each end of a stick instead of one.  This makes it more intuitive.  Find a good book on the subject and take a class that demands that you paddle correctly.
  3. You must understand what emergencies may occur.  Handling simple emergencies like a boat flipped over and how to quickly recover.  Basic first aid for things like cuts and bruises. We are certified Wilderness EMTs.  This may be overkill but consider a good First Aid class or Wilderness First Responder class.
  4. Organization is essential.  You will need to scout the river.  Analyse river levels.  Make decisions on what skill level is needed.  Setup multiple locations, put-in and take-out, for vehicles and associated coordination.  You only have one vehicle then, consider the use of a bicycle.  Lock up a bike at the take-out.  When you get there use the lock for the boat.  Bicycle to your vehicle.  After loading, consider pizza!
Swift River - 5.2 miles - allow at least 2 hours (Round Trip - 10.4 miles - 4 hours)
Reach 1 – Windsor Dam to Upper Bondsville Dam
            This is an excellent beginning for someone who wants to make their first river paddle.  This reach is 5.2 miles long.  By launching at the state boat ramp on Cold Spring Road, and recovering at the same spot, you can paddle up river and down river and not worry about bringing  two vehicles.  The fun part is that the river is interesting.  Paddle up river all the way to Quabbin Reservoir, pull over near the Y pool, and hike up the Windsor Dam.  Have a picnic and paddle back down river.  An alternative is to paddle down river to the dam and explore wetlands with wildlife in coves.  Bring your fishing gear and make it a day of fishing.  The upper section is catch-and-release.
            If you paddle both upstream and downstream it can be a 10.4-mile paddle taking 3 to 4 hours.  The current, for the most part, is not very strong and a paddler can get use to moving water.
Reach 1 – Windsor Dam to Upper Bondsville Dam
Lower Deerfield River - 11.4 miles - allow at least 4 hours
Reaches 14 and 15
            This stretch of river has always had a certain affection for us.  We have paddled it many times and absolutely love the variety and the wooded isolation that is experienced in the first 3 miles as the river goes down a steep sided valley.   Launching at Bardwell Ferry Bridge is a steep climb down that is well worth it.  You immediately launch into Class 2 as the river moves you downstream.  If this is your first time in whitewater, know that this is a great place to start.  Nothing on this trip is exceptionally difficult.
            Just upstream of the Stillwater Bridge, on river-left, is a sandbar area where you can take a break.  On a summer day, you can take a swim and relax.
            From here down, the river is an easy paddle.  The water can get very shallow as you approach the Route 91 bridges.  Put on your water shoes and drag your boat if it gets too shallow.  After this it will deepen and the current slows down.
            The Rocks is a great stop for a swim and a break.  The farmer who owns the land on river-left does not want people on his land.  Please be sensitive to this.  From here to the mouth of the river should take another hour of paddling.
            As I write this and think about the paddle, I want to get my boat out and head for the lower Deerfield River right now!
Reach 14 – Bardwells Ferry Bridge to Stillwater Bridge
Reach 15 – Stillwater Bridge to Mouth of the Deerfield 
       Housatonic River - 6.4 miles - allow 2.5 hours
Reach 8 – Paddle Through Stockbridge - Willow St Bridge below Dam to Glendale Dam
            This is a leisurely paddle through historic Stockbridge.  6.4 miles from South Lee or 4.5 miles from the launch in Stockbridge.
Consider mixing this with shopping at the stores in town, a visit to the Norman Rockwell Museum, and/or Chesterwood, and a nice dinner with music at the Lion’s Den in the Red Lion Inn.  
Reach 8 – South Lee below Dam to Glendale Dam
Housatonic River - All Day Paddle
Reaches 10, 11, 12, & 13 – 33.5 miles which is 11 hours in a slow canoe.
            If someone wants to challenge themselves to an all-day paddle on a river for the first time, then this is the paddle for them.  There are almost no whitewater of any kind and one short portage around a broken dam.   Most of the paddling is flat as a lake but stay alert for blow-down trees that can be strainers.
            Consider bringing three snacks, lunch, and dinner for everyone.  I prefer a lunch with warm soup and then snack all day before and after.  This way you can have pizza or some other restaurant food after the paddle.  One gallon of water per person minimum.  More water if the day will be hot.
            Consider starting this early in the morning or you might find yourself paddling in the dark. It happened to us once!  Everyone should arrive at least one hour before departure.  Bring your boats to the Division Street bridge.  Unload everything you need for the day. Leave someone to stand guard and ferry vehicles to Falls Village CT take-out.  If you are a large group, consider leaving a vehicle at the Covered Bridge in Sheffield as a bail-out.  During your trip back, scout the river as you return by stopping at some of the bridges that cross the river. Activate your Float Plan!

Here is the play by play of the paddle:
  • Reach 10
            112.9 Put in at Division Street Bridge
            104.5 Rocks to avoid just before the (104.3) Route 7 & 23 Bridge in Great Barrington
            104.2 Remnants of a dam - Attack it strait-on at river left.
            103.6 Pass under the Bridge Street Bridge

  • Reach 11
             101.8 Pass under the Brookside Road Bridge
               99.0 Pass under Kellog Road Bridge
               97.2 Pass under the Grey Covered Bridge in Sheffield (Take a break here)

  • Reach 12
              90.0 Pass under the Route 7 bridge in Sheffield
              88.3 Pass under the Rannapo Road Bridge

  • Reach 13
              84.6 Stevens Crossing Broken Dam Portage
              83.2 Route 44 Bridge in Canaan CT
              79.4 Great Falls Dam Take-Out
Reach 10 – Risingdale Pond Dam to Bridge Street Bridge    
Reach 11 – Bridge St Bridge to Sheffield Covered Bridge     
Reach 12 – Sheffield Covered Bridge to Rannapo Rd Bridge
Reach 13 – Rannapo Road Bridge to Great Falls Dam         

Westfield River - 10.9 miles - approximately 4 hours with 2 portages

            This paddle requires skill with Class 2 and 3 Rapids!  To avoid the more aggressive rapids consider putting in at Federal Street, Huntington. Because the upper Westfield River branches drop in altitude quickly, you should try this paddle in the spring or after a substantial amount of rain any other time of year.  This paddle is exactly what is used for the races in the spring.  We will write about the two put-in’s, any significant rapids, the two dams you must portage, and the take-out.  
Here is the play by play of the paddle:
  • Reach - Knightsville Dam to Crescent Dam Hydro Station
            29.5 East - Knightville Dam - Boat Access
            This is Army Corp of Engineers.  There are bathrooms nearby, picnic tables, and plenty of parking. 
            They are very supportive of paddlers.  You will encounter Class 2 and Class 3 rapids along this stretch.
            27.2 - Middle and East Branch Split
            You will see the middle branch coming in on river right adding water to the river.
            26.5 Route 112 Bridge – If you feel you are in over your head then consider taking out here otherwise, pass under the bridge.
            This is near the Huntington Country Store
             Consider a stop here or maybe after the paddle for Baked Goods, Ice Cream, Grinders, and more!
            25.5 Federal Street, Huntington (just upstream of the Novice Race Launch) 
            If this is your first time consider launching here instead of the Knightsville Dam launch.
            25.1 West Branch meet Middle/East Branches in Huntington – This is visible from the Federal Street launch.
            24.0 Crescent Dam Hydro-Station - Portage Take-Out
            Approach this dam river left.  This a significant drop in the river of about 33 feet.  Stay above the barrier when taking out. 
            Follow the well worned trail.

  • Reach - Crescent Dam Hydro Station to to Woronoco Dam
            23.9 Crescent Dam Hydro-Station - Portage Put-In
            This put-in is sheltered from the main part of the river.  Take the time to look up river at the beautiful rock formations. 
            It’s practically a natural dam.

           22.9 Hill and Dale Rapids - Class 3 - There is a paved pull over and trails to the river. 
           This is almost directly across the road from Countryside Woodcraft.  They make excellent custom cabinets and furniture.
            A mile downstream of Crescent Dam (aka Texon Dam), watch for the "Three Sisters" rocks just left of mid-stream.
            They mark the gateway to the Hill & Dale Rapids. This is the only Class 3 rapids from here to Woronoco take-out.
            If you prefer not to challenge the rapids, watch for the bypass along the right bank, otherwise, choose your line carefully.

           22.6 Turtle Bend Rapids, Russell – Class 2 - Once through Hill & Dale, the river turns sharply to the left at Turtle Bend and,
           with the exception of a large rock on the outside of that turn, offers nothing but riffles down to the next dam.

            21.1 Indian River Hydro Project Dam Take-Out – River Right
            Pull out of the river above the barrier on the gravel and sand area.
            The portage at the Dam is longer than the last one but the trail is excellent. 
            It is possible to carry you boat to Grove Street and end your paddle.

            21.0 Indian River Hydro Project Put-In
            The put-in is a gentle entry into a quiet pool.

            18.6 Woronoco Dam Take-Out – River Left just above the barrier. 
            In fact, the portage trail up to the road starts next to the concrete anchor used for the barrier.
            The if you intend to continue on down the river.  Read the details in the reach info provided.
   Reach - Knightsville Dam to Crescent Dam Hydro Station   
Reach - Crescent Dam Hydro Station to to Woronoco Dam

Farmington River - 11.7 miles - approximately 4 hours no portages! - Class 1 & 2 level
            OK, this is not in Massachusetts but the river does start in Massachusetts.  The Farmington River is clearly the most popular river in Connecticut for fly fishing.  Some days we have seen as many as thirty people fishing along this stretch.
            Puting all this aside, I really really like this paddle.  You get the feeling of being in the woods for almost the entire trip.  Plus, the occasional rapids are just a lot of fun even if you have little experience.  There is a quiet pool to hang out after every section of quick water.  About half the trip boarders State Park making it even nicer if you are looking for places to stop that are protected land.

  • Reach 4 - Goodwin Dam to Satan's Kingdom Recreation Area
            56.9 Start by putting in by the old big Rock.
            54.9 - The Still River enters at river-right.  This adds some volume and makes the paddle more pleasant.

            50.3 to 48.8 - There are a couple of islands where you have to choose what side to paddle. 
            If you are more than one boat, consider taking different sides.

            48.0 - Pass under the Route 219 Bridge.  As you pass under it, on river-left is Callahan Memorial Park.
            This is a nice little park to stop for a snack.

            46.3 - The East Branch of the Farmington River enters adding volume.   0.7 miles to the take-out.

            45.6 - Take out at Satan's Kingdom State Recreation Area.  Check out the tubing groups.
            If you still have time and feel adventurous, conder running Satan's Kingdom Rapids (see Reach 6).​​
   Reach 4 - Goodwin Dam to Satan's Kingdom Recreation Area