Enjoying a Walktober paddle on the beautiful Quinebaug River

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Enjoying a Walktober paddle on the beautiful Quinebaug River

Last Sunday, I led a Walktober paddle on the Quinebaug River National Recreation Water Trail with my colleague, Lois Bruinooge, and eight other intrepid kayakers.

We paddled the very first section of the Quinebaug water trail from Holland Pond (also known as Siog Pond) in Holland to East Brimfield Lake, almost five miles. There are seven sections of the water trail totaling 45 miles of paddling from Holland to Norwich. Each section has an information kiosk and a public launch and landing area. While I have paddled each section several times, I find the Holland to East Brimfield section to be the most family-friendly with exceptionally diverse wetland and wildlife habitat.

That entire area, from Holland Pond to East Brimfield Lake, is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) Project Area and, when you include all the associated lands, encompasses 2,070 acres in Holland, Brimfield and Sturbridge. The size and scope of the property make it a wonderful resource for those looking to paddle, hike, fish and enjoy the great outdoors.

There are three, well-designed and easy-to-access rest stops along the water trail with benches, perfect for resting and enjoying the beautiful scenery. One of the nice things about paddling this part of the river is you encounter no houses or signs of civilization for about three miles until you pass under the East Brimfield Road bridge and into East Brimfield Lake.

The stretch of the river to East Brimfield Lake was designated a Watchable Wildlife area and was the first water trail designated as part of the National Trials System by the National Park Service. The river meanders in twists and turns past tall white pine, maple, oak and hickory, then through thick stands of wetland marsh vegetation.

You never know what you might encounter at each turn of the river. Soon after we arrived at the Holland Pond Quinebaug River launch location and parking area, an adult bald eagle flew from a tall white pine, banked over the pond and headed down stream. It continued to gain altitude and headed northeast toward the larger Brimfield Lake. I had heard bald eagles frequent the area around the pond, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a nest nearby.

While on the water we encountered a great blue heron standing in the river along the bank hunting for small fish and frogs. It tolerated our presence until the flow of the river brought us just a little too close for comfort. With a look of quiet resignation, it lifted off with silent, deliberate wing beats and coasted up the river for a less crowded hunting ground – until at another turn of the river, there he was again, and the flight up stream was repeated.

We also saw two large beaver lodges but did not see any beavers. Near one large lodge they had started to build a mud and stick dam across the river, thankfully it didn’t impede our progress downstream. I picked up a floating, freshly chewed stick from the water and marveled at the line of fine-tooth marks.

The migrating songbirds seem to mostly have opted for warmer climes. On previous paddles I have seen many red-wing black birds, especially during springtime paddles when the males first return to stake out a nesting territory within the tall reeds and wetland marsh vegetation.

If you’re looking for information about paddling the Quinebaug River, I suggest two sources. The first is TLGV’s publication “Paddle Guide for the Quinebaug, Willimantic and Shetucket River Water Trails.” You can get a printed version at the TLGV office in Danielson, or you can find a downloadable version at:

https://thelastgreenvalley.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/PaddleGuide2016xweb.pdf

Another excellent source is the “Quinebaug River Trail Guide for East Brimfield Lake.” TLGV has a printable version at:

https://thelastgreenvalley.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/QuinebaugRiverTrailEBrimfieldLake.pdf

The river trail is open year-round, though the best flows are in the spring and early summer. This stretch of the river holds water throughout the summer season and our paddle trip in early October was enjoyable. The USACOE had begun lowering East Brimfield Lake to facilitate shoreline weed control, but we had plenty of water for our trip.

We live in a beautiful place called The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor. I hope you’ll join me and many others as we work together to care for, enjoy, and pass it on to the next generation.

Bill Reid is the Chief Ranger of The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor and has lived in the region for more than 35 years. He can be reached at bill@tlgv.org

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