Upstream From Woodsville

My favorite section of the Ct. River to paddle is "Up stream from Woodsville". It is very scenic, offers some great fishing, and rarely do I see any other boats on the water. If I do they are coming down stream. Certainly the next question is "How do you paddle up stream?" Good question, I will have to cover this one at a later date.

About a week ago on a Sunday I headed to Woodsville for an evening paddle. Putting in at the community field just behind the little league back stop (not a good place to park during baseball season) I waded with the canoe up through the riffles until I reached deeper water just below the bridges. The river in this section has a distinctly "Northern" character. Lots of ledge along the shore and outcroppings of the same scattered in the open water. Once in the deeper water I hopped into the canoe and began working my way up under the bridges and through the narrows. The river was at a nice level creating lots of backwaters and eddies to assist in my upstream efforts. Easing up the right side then ferrying to the center, then left and back right again I maneuvered myself in behind an island opposite the confluence with the Ammonoosuc. With a quick burst of speed, I was able to shoot up a small channel beside the island and enter the Ammonoosuc. Generally I am able to pick my way up to the base of the dam at the covered bridge. This evening however, I went only as far as the new bridge. As I re-entered the Ct. I drifted left to the inside as the river takes a very long, broad almost 180 degree turn, brushes up against rt. 135 and heads towards Monroe.

As the turn straightens out the river gradient steepens for 100 yds or so creating a nice challenge for the up stream paddler. There is ledge on both shorelines and several sections of exposed rock in the main current. Using the eddies created by the ledge I worked my way up through the maze until I ran out of help and then simply powered up the last 50 yds into calm water. (easier said than done) This is an incredibly beautiful section of the river. The main flow heads a bit farther up and then turns 90 degrees to the right. Not unusual to see deer in here. As you paddle up that way there are two smaller channels that branch off. They blend together again at the narrow curves on rt. 135. Most of the time the smaller side channels are two shallow to paddle and must be waded. Not the case today, however I opted to stay to the left and paddle up the main flow.

As I round the turn and head toward rt. 135 I am confronted with a maze of islands, channels, riffles and bays, as the river blends itself back together. The current is flowing in all different directions and makes for some interesting paddling. The main flow swings away from the road along a narrow finger of ledge and funnels through a narrow, 30 ft. wide 100 ft long mini chasm. Once on the other side, things open up again very quickly. The river is cascading mildly down a wide drop from left to right passing perpendicular in front of me and continuing on past to a large bowl that runs up against the road. Crossing the very distinct/powerful demarcation line separating the two currents requires a hard downstream lean and brace to keep me upright. Now completely into the new flow I spun the boat around 180 degrees and headed upstream, again. There is no easy way to get up through this section. The river drops about 20 ft in gradient over a couple hundred yds and does not have any obstacles to disrupt it. The river is several hundred yards wide with a uniform, strong flow from shore to shore. Normally I can stand and wade in knee deep water up through this one. Not today, the water is too deep and the current too strong. Only two options, turn back or put my head down and hammer away.

I worked my way into the middle of the river and poured on the coal. The process was quite slow, progress being measured in inches. Eventually I pulled in behind a large rock at the top of the drop and took a well deserved rest.

Above here the river widens out and retains the character we are most familiar with. I continued up a bit more circling around several old rock cribs. My guess is that these were used as bridge abutments many years ago. You can still see some of the wooden framing around them under water. Last year I saw a bald eagle in this spot.

Now the fun begins as I head down stream on the return trip. Down through the cascade towards the chasm. It certainly went faster than the ride up. Carrying a good head of steam, crossing the demarcation line into the chasm is a bit touchy. Through the shoot and out into the maze I took the far right channel for the down stream trip. As I scanned the landscape in front of me I noticed a pair of Canada Geese nested at the head of the center island. Down the left channel around a hard left turn sets me up for the second section of fast water. Drifting down the center, I spun in behind a large exposed section of ledge with a eddy turn. This is a nice spot to "Fool Around" in your canoe (see last article). So I did, making several trips up and down through this section before heading out again.

Down around 135 and the intersection of the Ammonoosuc, under the bridges and down the left channel to the community field. What a nice way to spend an evening. Until next time, Happy Paddling!!!.

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