Housatonic River Reach 10

Last Updated: 9/2017
Risingdale Pond Dam to Bridge Street Bridge
          The valley of the great river of Berkshire was named by the Mohicans, who, leaving their ancestral holdings in the hands of the Patroons of Rensselaerwyck, Kinderhook, and Livingston, drifted over from the Hudson into the new wilderness of the Housatonic Valley; they called the valley Ou-thot-ton-nook or Housatonnuck, and the river took its name from the valley. Not many years since came a Stockbridge Indian to visit the land of his fathers, and illustrated the word by pointing to the full moon just rising over East Mountain in Great Barrington, Ou-thot-ton-nook-" over the mountain."
         The river is generally easy paddling over most of this trip except for some fallen trees to navigate around at a few spots and the class 1 and 2 rapids in the last 2 miles.   I prefer to connect this trip with the next that goes to the covered bridge in Sheffield making a trip of 4.5 + 6.7 = 11.2 miles.
             Remember to steer clear of any blow down trees as they can pin you and drag you under if you are not careful. 

Skill Level:            Class 1 & 2
Estimated Time:    1.8 hours
Distance:               5.2 miles
USGS Map: Great Barrington, MA (7.5’x15’)
See Reach 9 for Put-In on Rising Pond.
Division Street Bridge - Mile 112.9
Position: 42-11.56 N 73-21.55 W 
Boat Launch:
There is parking for about three vehicles at the USGS Gage Station building.  Its an easy carry to the water.
Nearest Launch Address:
49 Division St, Great Barrington, MA 01230
Put-In Directions (9.8 miles, 14 minutes):
From Exit 2 of the Massachusetts Turnpike (Rt. 90)
  1. At the end of the ramp turn left at the stoplight onto Route 20 West then left again onto Route 102 West toward Stockbridge.​​
  2. In the middle of Stockbridge, at mile 4.7, turn left on Route 7 South with the Red Lion Inn on the corner.
  3. Pass Mounument Mountain Regional High School on your left.  Continue downhill south on Route 7.
  4. At mile 8.6, turn right onto Stockbridge Road.  There is a sign for Route 183 Housatonic/Interlaken
  5. At mile 9.1, make a sharp right onto Route 183 almost reversing direction.
  6. At mile 9.4, turn left on Division Street.  Taft Farm store is on your left corner.
  7. At mile 9.8, just before the steel bridge over the river, turn right into the USGS Gage Station area.

Next to the road is a service road to access the USGS Gage.
There is limited parking so consider dropping off
and parking down the road.
Looking upstream at remnants of a dam.
Risingdale Pond Dam to Division Street (mile 107.9)
          This section is primarily paddled by those who have portaged the dam.  The alternate is to launch at Division Street.  That be said, you will have this short 1.1 mile paddle all to yourself.
Division Street to Williams River
         If you choose this as a put-in, you will find it is an easy launch. A USGS Gage Station makes the pull over easy on the north side of the bridge.  The paddle will start you off in quick water.  If you have more than one boat, stage them together for launching so that you are all together at the start of your trip. 
           The first half-mile stretch is quick water when the river is high otherwise it is a easy passage with fields and woods on either side.  The Williams River enters on your right and adds to the size of the river.  There are no surprises here.
Williams River (mile 107.3) to Routes 7 & 23 Bridge (mile 104.3)
          This three mile section is the lion’s share of the trip.  You will pass through fields and some small stands of trees.  Several times you will come close enough to see the back of buildings as you travel south.
         At about mile 106.3, you can easily see the WSBS radio station with its antenna and a cell tower as well.
      At about mile 105.8 mark, you will see the back of Riverbend Cafe Vegetarian & Vegan Restaurant.
         At mile 104.9 you will see a few houses on your right and next a large bend in the river with houses on your left.  This large, almost still pool, is a good place to do a quick check on your gear.  Make sure everything is tied down.  You will be approaching the only true whitewater on this section.
         As you leave the pool, you will go west and will  hear the water ahead.  There are several large rocks to negotiate starting at about mile 104.5 which would be considered class 2 rapids.
Routes 7 & 23 Bridge to Bridge Street
         As you pass under the bridge, there will be the remains of a dam that will drop you a couple of feet.  Notice that this is marked by a brick building on your left.  Make sure you line your boat directly down stream as you drop over it, this is a class 2 drop.  I prefer the far left side but you can safely travel over most areas.
       The river was once dammed here to power a grist mill which stood on this bank. Right across the river at this point is the site of an old rubber factory, where in 1886 electrical inventor William Stanley developed his alternating-current transformer. See the section Esoteric History.
         Along the right side of this stretch you will notice a trail.  Check out the section on River Walk.
       At mile 104, you will pass under the Cottage Street bridge.  There is only a half a mile to the take out.  There are many houses and building on either side of the river with large trees over hanging.  Welcome to downtown Great Barrington.
       The take out will be on your right as you travel south just before the next bridge on Bridge Street.  There are several places to pull out over a 40 yard stretch.  Remember that the bank can be soft and muddy.
Bridge Street Bridge - Mile 107.9
Position: 42-15.00 N 73-21.82 W
Boat Launch:
This put-in take-out is roadside next to the old Searles Middle School.
Nearest Launch Address: 
115 Bridge St, Great Barrington, MA 01230
Take-Out Directions (12.1 miles, 20 minutes)
From Exit 2 of the Massachusetts Turnpike (Rt. 90)
  1. At the end of the ramp turn left at the stoplight onto Route 20 West then left again onto Route 102 West toward Stockbridge.​​
  2. At mile 4.7, turn left on Route 7 South with the Red Lion Inn on the corner.
  3. Pass Mounument Mountain Regional High School on your left.  Continue downhill south on Route 7 South past shopping plaza on left and many other stores.  
  4. At mile 11.3, Route 7 South crosses the river and turns left at a stop light onto Main Street.
  5. At mile 11.9, turn left onto Bridge Street.
  6. At mile 12.1, the put-in is on your left just before the steel bridge that crosses the river. The brick building is the old Searles Middle School.
A small trail leads from the parking area along the river.
River Walk
         Great Barrington was built with its back to the Housatonic River, as were many industrial era towns. It was a “working” river, abused by industrial neglect and spoiled by dioxins, raw sewage, PCBs and everyday household waste.
        In 1978, the building on the site currently housing Rite Aid, then occupied by Melvin’s Prescription Pharmacy, was completely gutted by fire. The charred debris was bulldozed over the bank.
     In 1990, a massive cleanup effort involving 108 River Walk volunteers representing dozens of community organizations removed over 75 tons of demolition debris and storm-damaged trees from the bank. Two years later, the first 136 feet of River Walk trail, a simpler version of what you see today, opened to the public on November 1, 1992.
River Walk
Esoteric History
          William Stanley Jr. an American physicist born in Brooklyn, New York. In his career, he obtained 129 patents covering a variety of electric devices.  In 1913, he also patented an all-steel vacuum bottle, and formed the Stanley Bottle Company.  Offices and stores on Main Street Great Barrington were lit by wires that ran across the Housatonic River. Later, in Pittsfield, he established a factory to manufacture transformers and other electrical products.  By the early 1900s he had sold the factory.  Read more about Standley at the link below:
William Stanley, Jr.