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The Joys of a Source-to-Sea Journey

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The Joys of a Source-to-Sea Journey

June 10th, 2018|
By the authors of the Connecticut River Boating Guide, 3rd edition — John Sinton, Elizabeth Farnsworth, Wendy Sinton

We dedicate this blog to the late Elizabeth J. Farnsworth, author, artist, naturalist, musician, and the most generous of friends.

The three of us had various reasons for doing the journey and the book: two of us were writers and naturalists and one was in love with all forms of boating, so we had motivation and reasonable skills. We also had independently done several 3-5 day paddles on the river and found that the 2nd edition was sorely out of date and therefore no longer terribly useful to boaters. John, a CRC board member, floated the idea of updating the book as a wonderful way to reach out to the public, and before we knew what we were saying yes to, we had been “hired.”

John immediately contacted our friend, Elizabeth Farnsworth, and, over a memorable breakfast, we quickly decided we could do this. In 2004, Elizabeth, with her hand-built wooden kayak, had made her maiden voyage down the river from Turner’s Falls to Long Island Sound, which was completed in 5 days and was accompanied by several friends. John and Wendy in 2004 did a 4-day test paddle from Barnet-Monroe access to Lyme, NH (reach #8 to 11). OK, confession, we did not do source to sea in one glorious, continuous run. John and Wendy partook of comfortable beds (motels) on the test voyage in 2004 and decided that, for 60-somethings, this was a good way to paddle the river.

Fourth Connecticut Lake near outlet

In 2005 we began our journey at the 4th Connecticut Lake and hiked most of the unpaddleable 3 miles beginning of the river) down to 3rd Lake. From there we drove the 25 miles down to Pittsburg, N.H., scouting the river along the way, and walked the fisherman’s path to Canaan where the paddling generally begins. (John has fished several miles of this section and has found it to be some of America’s finest trout waters!)

Over the next two summers, all three of us did all the reaches as we reconnoitered and then re-paddled and documented the river and its access points. Sometimes we worked as a threesome, when two would paddle and one would drive the contiguous roads to document directions into access points. Sometimes we worked solo, sometimes duo.

Paddle this fantastic river however you want, but paddle it with joy, knowing we’re all working to keep its waters clean, its habitats healthy, and its communities thriving for our great-grandchildren!

Great Island & Griswold Point

Wendy’s and John’s two favorite reaches:1. Barnet/Monroe to Wells River/Woodsville (#8) because it was our first paddle adventure on a major river.
2. The last reach (#28) from Tantummaheag town landing to Griswold Pt./mouth of river because it was so impressively different from the beginning and it was so challenging to deal with tides, cross currents and waves after all the help the river gave going down river.

Elizabeth’s favorites:
1. The 23-mile reach #5 from Bloomfield/N. Stratford to Guildhall for its fantastic views and incredible wildlife.
2. East Haddam/Chester to Essex (reach #26) for its extraordinary marshes and the rich biota, the heart of the Tidelands and what The Nature Conservancy calls one of the “Last Great Places” on earth.

We all three agree that one of the finest day paddles is from Barton’s Cove to the French King Bridge and back for its beauty and its geological and historical importance dating back to the designation of Peskeomskut (Turners Falls) by the Native Americans as a place for all tribes to gather in peace to fish for the spring run of shad, salmon, and other migratory fish (lower part of reach #18).


Are you thinking about paddling the 410-mile length of the Connecticut River? We three co-authors of The Connecticut River Boating Guide: Source to Sea (3rd edition) stand ready to inspire future through-paddlers with some answers to questions many have asked and some memories from our trips from source to sea in 2005-06.

Make sure before your journey that you have looked at the CRC and Connecticut River Paddlers Trail websites. They have a wealth of helpful information. Contact CRC and ask them whatever questions are on your mind.