Monday, February 2, 2009

Turtle Heaven: Parker River (8/24/08)

Upon the Parker

Date: August 24, 2008
Distance: 5 miles
Location: Byfield and Georgetown, MA
Type: Flatwater
Difficulty: Moderate

It seemed everytime you turned your head, there was another turtle. All manner of turtles had made it out to sun themselves on the edge of the river: big turtles, little turtles, brave turtles and "fraidy" turtles. They were as ubiquitous as elk in Yellowstone. So much so, that like the elk, I stopped being amazed by the turtles.

Just a bit into the exurbs of Boston lies the Parker River. It runs from just west of Crane Pond down into the Plum Island Sound. The river is dammed twice in Byfield and this divides the paddlin
g into three sections. On Sunday: Jess, Andrew and I did the upper portion from Bridge Street in Byfield up to Crane Pond in Georgetown and back. I took out the UNS Aral Sea, my inflatable Sea Eagle kayak.
The river is calm and quiet. This portion meanders through parts of the Crane Pond Wildlife Management Area. There are a few stretches of wooded area with low hanging branches.

I went the wrong way

But most of it wanders through marshy meadows with fen reeds on either side of the channel. Some of this is really difficult. At times the channels were only as wide as my boat, if not narrower. This was mainly problematic since it required not "paddling" but pushing your paddle off the fen reeds. While this is effective it leads to the issue that at times you get some of the reeds tied up in the paddle where two "problems" can arise:The first is just merely weird. You give a tough push onto the reed or if you can get into the water. Then it feels like some small animal has jumped aboard. The first startled fright quickly subside once you realize its merely a big hunk of water grass that you've thrown off you paddle.

The second problem can be somewhat of a real issue. I got my paddle tangled in the reeds. Going upstream this isn't a large issue. But, down stream I had problems. As the boat is floating away, I was caught with the reeds rapped around the paddle. no amount of yanking was doing anything; so, I was trying to spin the paddle to unwind it. Unfortunately the boat is moving away from the reed. Yanking quickly was not an option. At one point Was thinking of breaking down the paddle into its two parts and just losing one. Luckily, I finally got it free.

There were four separate beaver dams on the run (I saw no beavers, only turtles). Two were okay. Both Jess and Andrew had easy times with their hard kayaks. With the inflatable you do have to do some extra work sliding it over. One I had real issues and was just going to throw it over. But, when I got out, I stood on some branches at about 3 feet down, they broke and I dropped another two feet. The other dam we had issues with I was forced to climb from my boat and over the dam. I dragged my boat over the dam. Then I dragged both Andrew and Jess, in their boats, over the dam.

About two or so miles up the Parker, you come to Crane Pond. This pond s wide and filled with grasses. In some open water we rafted together and ate a snack. There is supposed to be a way out of the Pond, but we did not find it.

Instead we paddled back. I found the return paddle significantly easier as you can let the river push you through the tough winding portions and you have an easier time skidding over the beaver dams.

Resting upon a rock

Great day; great trip. We look forward to trying the other two trips on the Parker.

The Parker River Clean Water Association has a description of where to park for three different canoe/kayak trips on the river:

All photos by Andrew Martin.

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