Where to go, where to go, where to go, so much water, so little time to learn, I could spend a lifetime exploring our Great River only to formulate questions. I would need many more lifetimes to answer the same. Itís the most humbling and frustrating feeling, immersed in it, yet apart from it. Like flipping through a book whose pages never end, I am drawn to the pictures first. Captivated by their diversity, color and form I turn on and on. Knowing all the while that I will never have time to read and comprehend our Great Rivers words.
Traveling throughout the Upper River and its many contributing streams is an endless journey. From the narrow swamp rose armored meanders of the Hockomocks Black Brook, to the wide rolling riffles at the Ancient village of Titicut. First time river travelers would probably be most comfortable on the main stem of the river. Here, from its headwaters above Rt. 104 in Bridgewater down to Titicut the river meanders lazily along its course, offering wonderful views and vistas. Swamp white oaks arching out over the water, their gnarled trunks and limbs serving as arbors for the wild grapes scrambling up to the forest canopy. On the upland banks red oaks and beeches along with black and yellow birches jostle for position on humus lain down by Castanea Dentata the American Chestnut. Strangely enough, American Chestnut like the Wampanoags fell victim to a disease brought from across the seas.
If a curious paddler where to pull up at such a spot she or he might find a peculiar looking tree growing beneath the jostling giants, it looks something like a beech but with a longer, narrower leaf. If the time of year was right, he or she might also see odd spiny looking nuts hanging from the tips of its outstretched limbs. Here and there similar trees would be found growing in small clumps from the stumps of trees long past. They would be American Chestnuts which survive by way of their strong resilient roots driven deep into native soil. Roots which are immune to the blight and continue to sprout strong saplings from the stumps of their parent trees.
When planning a trip, avoid trying to do to much of the river in a single day. Donít force yourself into being a midstream paddler. Tune out the everyday chaos of doing, embrace the rhythm of being. Plan the trip for short segments which will allow time for exploring the river banks, tributaries and spring trickles. If possible, begin your trip early in the morning with the rising sun, this is when the river is at its best. Take the time to paddle from bank to bank, poke around under the overhangs and in the muskrat middens. When passing over shallow spots look down into the water at the bottom, there are many treasures to be found here by curious paddlers.
Include a long handled net on your gear list. Although today the river is wild and scenic, it was once an important trade route for Wampanoags and Colonists alike. Before roads and railways linked the upstream frontier communities the river served as a conduit for trade. The shorelines were also far more developed in colonial times than they are today. Trash and trade goods that went into the river 200 years ago can be treasures today. You may find upon scooping up what appears to be trash that you have found a treasure. If what you scoop is indeed modern day trash then you can take it home and dispose of it in the same way you would pick up and dispose of trash along the shore.
More to come soon