Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Paddle Trip: Back to the Concord River

As the temperature drops, I look to take my touring kayak to rivers (read my posts 5 Tips for Paddling in the Bumper Seasons and 5 Tips for Touring a River in a Kayak ). I hadn't paddled the Concord River in Bedford and Concord, MA in a few years, so Tim (read my post An Unexpected Adventure) and I took a trip down Rt. 128 to Rt. 4 and put in across from the Bedford Boat Landing at the Carlisle Road (Rt. 225) bridge. The day was bright and crisp with a westerly breeze that made for a head wind, which added to the current (we paddled upstream) as a drag on our progress. We weren't in any hurry, though, and as I've stated in past posts, paddling upstream first on a river sure makes the return trip a lot easier. The river is wide just upstream of the bridge, and the breeze blew up a small chop in the middle. Progress was good, though, as we cruised along enjoying the waning color of the late autumn leaves on the banks.

The Concord River is formed by the merging of the Sudbury and Assabet Rivers at Egg Rock near the Concord Battleground and the Minute Man statue. It winds downstream (east/northeast) through Concord, Bedford, Billerica, North Billerica, and Lowell, and empties, ultimately, into the Merrimack. It's a substantial river - wide in most places, which is what you want if you're paddling a touring kayak as we were. 'Yaks in the 14-17' range can be difficult to maneuver on narrow rivers and streams - especially if they have hard bends and currents around obstacles. As we moved farther upstream, we ran into some of these types of narrower sections, but largely, the Concord is well suited to accommodate longer craft. 

Wildlife was mostly quiet, save for a few ducks and geese along the way. I was hoping to spot some deer in the woods on the banks, but had no such luck. The big surprise was seeing painted turtles basking on logs on the north bank, taking advantage of the south westerly sun arc to catch some late October rays. I was surprised to see turtles still active that late in the season with ambient air temperatures in the mid 50's℉, and dropping rapidly when the sun descends in the late afternoon. 

The banks of the river on our route upstream toward Concord are largely uninhabited, with trails on the north bank, and much of the south bank lying within the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge . As we approached Concord, however, some large private properties with expansive lawns can be viewed on the north bank. Great Meadows has landings for kayaks and canoes. We didn't stop there, but a trail hike in the refuge could be added to a river paddle for a stretch of the legs and some additional interest. We did stop at one point on the north bank for a quick stretch beside one of the riverside trails.

Boat traffic was sporadic, with some small motor craft traveling along. They kept their speeds low , so safety was not a concern - although one two-boat group of fishermen had lines in the water - which is always a hazard to keep wide of, especially when other obstacles are present - like logs and tree limbs, as were in this case. I often find it better to wait in an eddy and time a burst of hard paddling to get clear of other boat traffic. 

There are a couple of interesting bridges to pass under on the way upstream. The stone bridge at Monument Street was built in the late 1800's and the The Old North Bridge at Liberty Street harkens back to colonial days. As we approached the Old North Bridge, rented kayaks were plentiful on the water, with inexperienced paddlers aboard - so a measure of caution passing through this area was warranted.
The Old North Bridge, Concord, MA

We turned south on to the Sudbury at Egg Rock and paddled for another half mile before deciding to turn around and head back toward Bedford. As expected, the current at our sterns was a welcome push and a reward for enduring the same current while paddling upstream. We made great time as we glided with the flow, and we discussed a possible future trip up the Sudbury from the boat launch just upstream form The Old North Bridge.

By the time we got back to the our landing, the sun was already getting low in the west, and the temperature drop was noticeable. I was glad to be off the water. We used Google to find a local pub, and drove over to nearby Acton for some tasty appetizers and a couple of well earned draft beers.

The return trip to the Concord River was a fine paddle in crisp air, with a couple of sites along the way - roughly 4 hours round trip. I'd do it again, and I look forward to heading further up the Sudbury in the future.

TB on the Water          


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