Paddle The Border: As Summer Nears, A Flotilla Returns To The Connecticut

May 29, 2015

Summer has made its unofficial debut and for many that means time on the water. And, on a recent Sunday, that included more than 100 canoes and kayaks slipping down the Connecticut River.

It called “Paddle the Border” and it started 12 years ago.

“This was started as a way for community groups from either side of the river to work together to show our shared asset: the Connecticut River,” says Mike Thomas, of the Newbury Conservation Commission.  

“The idea is for people to go in and have a fun day. Get to know the river. Find out where to put it, what is in the river, that it is safe to paddle.”

The free event is put on by the Newbury Conservation Commission, the Haverhill Recreation Commission and the Cohase Chamber of Commerce.

It begins in Woodsville, where two volunteers help launch each of the 111 boats. The put-in is narrow and will only handle one boat at a time, but that's fine because it avoids a riverine traffic jam. The red, blue, green and yellow dots quickly spread out. 

Participants  paddle past miles of serene and lovely scenery. There are farms nearby. And, mountains in the distance. 

Some paddlers pick the middle of the river, working on suntans.

Others hug the shore, seeking shade.

There’s time for picnics and drifting along, laughter, a little horseplay and friendly waves.

And then there are some people who may not be having as much fun.

For example there’s that guy who’s paddling hard, eyes straight ahead.

His kayak has a line that stretches back to the kayak of a young woman who sitting, arms folded, un-smiling.

After about three and one-half hours – and 13 miles - there’s the sound of music in the distance…

It’s the Strawberry Farm Band, part of the welcoming committee at the Bedell State Park, the takeout point.

Ronald Hart of Cambridgeport, Vermont and his family are at the Wells River/Woodsville Rotary Club’s concession stand, which is selling soda, hot dogs and hamburgers.

“Beautiful trip,” Hart says. “ The only thing that bothered me is my tailbone. The trip is beautiful. Nice and leisurely. We saw an otter….”

The first Sunday in October there’s be another Paddle the Border. But along a different stretch of the Connecticut.

At Bedell State Park the Strawberry Farm Band was playing as kayakers arrived...
Credit Chris Jensen for NHPR