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Canoe rides led by Stew Sanders, June 11 and 12, 2005
by Stew Sanders

The canoe rides led by Stew Sanders on June 11th & 12th were quite a success even though only a handful of people attended. Below is a short narrative, in the words of Stew, describing the adventure.

On the edge of Little Pond on the DCR public right-of-way from Brighton St., Belmont, after cutting a path through the branches of the recently fallen willow tree, we put our canoes into the water. River Herring were there; one person saw them, others heard the splashing, and fishermen said there had been many there the day before. Air coming out of the culvert felt very cool on this very hot day. We paddled close to shore and then swung wide before entering Little River. After a mostly submerged wooden object, there is a post underwater at an old bridge site. The goal for Saturday was to clear the way for the canoeing on Sunday; the wooden object would wait for a cleanup, and we could pass on either side of the post.

We entered Perch Pond, where Wellington Brook comes in from the far right. After open meadows, Little River enters woods, where we found our first blockage. We knew about it, because, when taking some measurements for the Coalition for Alewife, Steve Kaiser had crossed it. Mac Howland worked on branches overhead, while Steve and I used two different saws to cut through the submerged branch. It took about a half hour to open a space for the canoes. Steve explained how silt emerging from the Alewife channel travels a few yards up Little River before settling and creating a broad shallow area. We went close to the left shore for depth and were able to get through, paddled under the road and bikeway bridges and entered the tunnel that goes under Route 2.

In the tunnel a y-shaped, 10-foot long timber with more branches was stuck in the mud and collecting more branches and debris. We cut limbs 2 to 4 inches in diameter, often working under water. We roped them to our 2 canoes, moved them downstream and secured them along the edge of Alewife Brook; a rope tied to the largest remains with an end over the adjacent fence. There were 2 more snags before we reached Massachusetts Ave., and again it was shady and relatively cool. Rene Morin of DCR has been informed, and the more cutting and removal will be up to his crew. Here is one safety tip: if you tip over, go back to the canoe and hold onto it while pushing it to shore.

We reached the broader waters downstream of Broadway bridge and knew that our task of clearing the way was completed. The three of us in two canoes turned around and paddled back, arriving at the newly created green area of Alewife Reservation's east end. We were in time to join the celebration of returning public land from parking area to green open space.

Refreshed, Mac and I paddled up to Perch Pond and pulled a canoe ashore there before continuing on to Little Pond and Winn's Brook culvert for take out. We drove behind Hill Estates, walked into the Reservation's orchard and down to Wellington Brook, put wheels under the canoe, and pulled it up to the Freiner Company on Brighton Street. Ken Freiner arranged for us to store it over night. The company also transported the canoe in preparation for the weekend.

Carl Wagner and a new FAR participant started out from Little Pond Sunday morning in one canoe. Two other people cancelled; we prefer to have two canoes on these trips. On the other hand, being retired and in town about half of the summer, I am prepared to take one or two people in my canoe, and the season extends into November. I think I'll accept tips for that service!

Carl and Mike reached the confluence of Alewife Brook and the Mystic River and paddled up the Mystic to the Medford Street, Route 60, bridge before heading back to Belmont. They found it cooler to be on the water than the rest of us found the day on land.