Sunday, June 7, 2009

Paddling Adventures on the Nashua River

Kayaking was on our agenda yesterday. Since we were a little short on time and the weather started out overcast and cool, we stayed close to home and went back to the Nashua River where Doug had seen so much wildlife last weekend. Once again, the wildlife was out in full force (and this time it was mid-morning). We also had two heart-pounding mini-adventures... more on those in a minute.

Nashua River boat launch To begin with, the put-in near Stellos Stadium is wide and smooth (no rocks).

Shortly after leaving the launch area, we spotted the resident family of Mute Swans -- a Mama, Papa, and two babies or cygnets about 800 feet from us. As beautiful as these birds are, they can be aggressive toward animals and humans, particularly when there's a nest or babies involved. So we were trying to give them a wide berth by paddling over to the far side of the river, but apparently it wasn't wide enough.

The male swan started to charge my boat! (Photo by Dareen T.A> Bradnick used with permission -- just to give you an idea how big swans are.)

There was no doubt that Papa swan was striking an offensive pose. I learned later it's called busking -- his neck curved back and his wings half raised, he was coming at me pretty fast; they can reach up to 55 miles an hour. So I did the only thing I could think of: I paddled back toward the launch as fast as I could! Luckily, he backed off and didn't attack, but my heart was racing from that encounter.

Note About Mute Swans: They are fiercely territorial. While we were well aware that we shouldn't crowd them, I learned afterwards that they guard very large territories of anywhere from 4 to 10 acres. It's hard to keep that distance on a narrow river or small pond.

Eventually, the swan family retreated to the left bank of the river and we set out again, staying well to the right. Next we came upon an osprey nest. At the same time, various birds were darting around the river, including a Red-Winged Blackbird and what we think was a Northern Oriole. We also saw a great blue heron, a beaver, muskrat, and lots of Eastern Painted turtles, prevalent in this part of the state.

About a mile or so into our paddle, Doug decided to disembark on the riverbank. Here's where our second mini-adventure unfolded. He chose a spot with a fairly steep and muddy embankment. So as he tried to get out of the kayak -- you guessed it -- he took a dunk in the Nashua River, with binoculars, keys, wallet, and cellphone. (Can you say dry bag? Not!)

Naturally, his kayak started to fill with water and we didn't have a pump. (More on being prepared in a moment.) He succeeded in dragging the very heavy, water-filled kayak up aforementioned steep muddy embankment and emptied all the water out. Trouble now was that there really wasn't an easy way to re-launch. He tried again, only to end up in the water a second time! Luckily, his third attempt was the charm.

He was unhurt and we can laugh about it now, but we both learned a lot from this little mis-adventure. From now on, we'll bring a pump and probably a rope with us. Another Granite Stater who blogs about kayaking wrote an excellent post, Ten Things You Should Do Before Every Paddle, after she apparently had a similar experience last year. If you've never thought much about safety on the water, I encourage you to read Kim's post now. (Go ahead, I'll wait.)

The whole experience also got us thinking about what would happen if one of us dumped out in the middle of the river. Hmmm...we probably need to practice re-entering our boats.

Other than that, we had a great time on the Nashua River yesterday and would highly recommend it. If you go, just beware of the Mute Swans and stay away from steep embankments!

Directions: From Riverside Drive in Nashua, take your first left and head toward Stellos Stadium. Bear left and then right to a dirt road near the Public Works Garage and the boat launch.

1 comment:

Bowie Mike said...

Interesting adventures. I grew up in a neighborhood on the North side of the Nashua River - just East of the Hollis town line. I spent some time fishing and canoeing on the other side of Mine Falls from your trip. The landscape of the river has changed a bit since I was a kid - I think due to some changes at the dam. Lots of great memories.