Monday, June 21, 2010

Solstice Row Beyond The Indian

"...and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth...seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness." - Conrad

June 21st, 2010. The Summer Solstice. On this longest day of the year, something motivated me to break my planned afternoon workout and venture beyond "The Indian", that native American visage painted on a large boulder that we normally take as the upstream terminus of rowable water. And on this particular afternoon, I happened to have my cell phone on board. So I thought I'd take a few photos of this beautiful, but infrequently traveled, portion of the Housatonic, and publish them in The Catch.

Now, here's a little something of a disclaimer: I am not advising any one who hasn't done so already to follow my lead and row beyond The Indian. There's a lot of hazards up there. It's certainly no place for a novice or some one just getting used to our river. I've been up this way many times, often during conditions of low water, and know where most of the major hazards are, as well as the main channel. Recently, the river has been high, and on this particular day, there was a significant flow and a lot of disturbed water. So my advice to most is just to enjoy this travelogue for now, at least until upstream conditions calm down a bit.

That said, here are some of the photos I managed to take....

The above photo shows the view looking back as you enter the somewhat wider expanse of the river just upstream of the relatively narrow channel that begins at The Indian. Here, the water was flowing fairly swiftly and required some firm rowing to make good progress upstream. Generally, the Shelton/Monroe side of the river is safer, initially, as there is a deep channel cutting right along the shore. But with the higher water level, I was able to row nearly right up the middle.

A little farther up are several beautifully situated homes overlooking the river. But don't get too close! There's quite a few rocks on the Oxford side, along with some visible swells forming over them. Just upstream of the homes is a pretty impressive, steep rock wall. As you're nearing the rock wall, the deep channel begins to shift toward the center of the river, and you need to do likewise.

This photo shows the middle portion of the large rock wall, just a bit beyond the homes.

The upstream end of the rock wall, on the Oxford shore. You can see from the photo that the water was getting a bit tumultuous at this point...

Finally, the upper boundary of rowable water more or less occurs just a tad upstream of this rope swing and climbing ladder on the Oxford side. It was near this structure some years ago that I had a chance encounter with Marlon Brando, who was unintelligibly reciting some weird poetry at the time....(just kidding, folks!)

And this is the end, my friend.....the view just upstream of the rope swing. Just about 50 yards farther up, water is boiling over large boulders. Between the separation in the trees on either side of the river, almost in the center of the photo, is a large grey structure, which is the Stevenson dam. The water at this point was strongly forcing me back downstream, so I heeded the river's advice and gingerly turned the shell around to head back home.

On much calmer days, I've been able to row about another 75-100 feet beyond this point, in the center channel, with large, submerged boulders on either side. "Turning around" in that case means back-paddling until the channel is once again wide enough to spin the shell. The above photo was taken on a different day, under relatively calm, low-water conditions. You can plainly see the large rocks ahead, which are hidden in the previous photo. You can also make out the outline of the center channel.

The ride downstream was a bit exhilarating in places. Initially, I stayed in the center of the river, but then steered toward the Shelton/Monroe side to stay in the channel. In the above photo, there's a large, submerged sandbar just off the Shelton shore. This bar is plainly visible when the river is low, but it was completely submerged on this particular day. The bar was causing a column of water about 4-5' wide, right alongside the shoreline, to flow much more quickly than the water where I was (essentially a Bernoulli effect), forming its own fast moving stream.

A view of the last few rocks on the Shelton shore, and then finally...

...The Indian! Unfortunately, the light shining through the trees blurred part of this photo. I continued heading downstream, and resumed my normal rowing regimen in the more tranquil waters. You know...with the water skiers and personal water craft guys! :-)



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