My friend, Paul, and I were paddling section 7 of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail in 2016 when we discovered the CT River Paddlers Trail Map, and it immediately peaked our interest. Being hearty and adventurous paddlers, and seasoned downriver canoe racers, planning a two-week trip, averaging 30 miles a day for the CT River the following year seemed doable.
We launched on August 12, 2017. Our days were long but filled with beautiful views, and we paused for swims and an occasional rope swing. Water levels were high and so were our spirits. This was going to be a great adventure! On day 7 we ran Sumner Falls Rapid, then had a hard rain for the remainder of the day. When we pulled in to Lower Meadows Campsite we were going to pull this off! We were on schedule!
The next morning was a short paddle to the take out for the portage around Bellows Falls Dam. We crossed the river on the Arch bridge, and had a fine breakfast at Miss Bellows Falls Diner, raising our cups of coffee to toast the trip! At the put in we met with river buddies who planned to join us for a day or two. However, their Boston Terrier was not as thrilled about our itinerary, and less happy about me. He bit me in the right hand, sinking all 4 canines into the heel of my hand and was hanging from it as I lifted my arm. That ended the trip, and we went home.
After my hand healed, Paul and I went back north and hiked to 4th CT Lake where I “paddled” out onto the beaver pond on a pool raft. We camped by the CT River where it was the size of a brook and paddled all the lakes.
Other adventures beckoned me, and the CT River lay unfinished for two years. I have paddled the CT section many times over, but Bellows Falls to Holyoke Dam remained undone, and it gnawed at me. When Covid-19 arrived in 2020, it seemed impossible, until I was discussing it with my friend, Amy, and before we knew it, we had a plan! With her help, I would section paddle the missing piece.
In one week we completed all of MA, and the following week we completed VT/NH, saving Bellows Falls, the scene of the crime, to Putney Landing for the final day. Other friends joined us for the celebration, including Paul. It was a fun finish!
Am I done paddling the CT River? Never! It is a beautiful river! There will be more day paddles, more camping trips, and maybe even another trip from source to sea!
Story submitted by Tim Lewis. Paddled by canoe in sections from 8/12/17 to 8/20-20.
Tim’s story is featured in an article in the November 2020 edition of Rocky Hill Life: Long Tidal Paddle, by Sarah Barr.