Vermont, May 1, 2014. River advocates often refer to rivers, streams and lakes as being part of a watershed. We use the word because we are familiar with the notion that all surface water is connected to itself and some larger ecosystem. There is the classic definition of what is a watershed: The land region draining water into a river, stream or body of water. The high points of land that shift the water toward different river systems separate watersheds.
Ask yourself this: If a raindrop falls on your piece of land, what stream takes it to what lake that takes it to what river that takes it to the ocean? That is how you figure out your watershed. For Lake Warren, that raindrop travels down a small rivulet to an unnamed stream to join a small brook that flows into Lake Warren eventually making its way down Warren Brook into the Cold River and into the Connecticut River. The Connecticut gathers all of the tributary rivers in four states until it flows into Long Island Sound. Sometimes we get a little parochial up here and forget that the Connecticut River flows all the way to the ocean.
The River is larger and more powerful south of our borders. It has gathered more water from more tributaries. It powers hydroelectric facilities down stream the way it does up here. It welcomes power boaters more than our reach of the river but people there value the river as a boating, fishing and birding asset the way we do.
The river is tidal up river to Hartford, CT and during low flows beyond that all the way to the MA border. The seasonal flow of the river determines both the extent of the reach of saltwater up river and tidal rise. During spring freshet when the river can be discharging up to 29 billion gallons a day there is little noticeable tide. During dry times when the flow has lowered to 4 billion gallons a day the tide swing can be nearly 4 feet.
For many of us the most alluring place is the CT Lakes region where the headwater lakes start the river on its trip to the Sound. The main river travels some 410 miles (a river never goes from here to there in a straight line) to reach its destination. Starting in a bog know as the 4th CT Lake at the Canadian border the trickle that is the river joins with Indian Stream, Pauls Stream and by the time it reaches Colebrook it is a real river. The country is wild, populated with moose and other critters that demand undisturbed habitat. The area is rich with water and the watershed there forms a tangle of backwater ponds and small lakes all draining into the river.
For many of the people in the lower reaches of the river the most alluring places are the tidewaters area. Despite efforts to drain and “reclaim” the land the marshes have persisted and the wild species, especially birds, have succeeded in this habitat. Many organizations including the United Nations Ramsar Convention recognize the tidewater area as “Wetlands of International Importance.” The marsh areas are wild and the bird life is worth the trip south. Take your canoe. Canoe launches are sprinkled throughout the marsh areas and that is the best way to explore this wonderful area of our river.
Our river is different north to south but it is all the same watershed and it is all available for you to experience. For more information about how to get on the river throughout its length there are several excellent publications available through the Connecticut River Watershed Council at http://www.ctriver.org and the Connecticut River Joint Commissions at http://www.crjc.org.
David L. Deen is the River Steward for the Connecticut River Watershed Council. CRWC is celebrating over 60 years as a protector of the Connecticut River.