Friday, September 16, 2016

M-M Section 7 Prelude: Kayaking the Oxbow

Image result for the oxbow northampton ma

This part of the countryside has been famous for many year among artists, poets, and travelers, who savor the high cliffs overlooking the Connecticut River and the Oxbow. For example, here's a painting by Thomas Cole of the Oxbow from Mt. Holyoke: 

Image result for the oxbow northampton ma
Thomas Cole painting of the Oxbow from Mt. Holyoke
It looked like a fun place to kayak to me, and we haven't had our kayaks out in a couple years. Plus, I could actually go across the Connecticut River and pick the trail up from the other side. That's not something I had expected to be able to do, but I really wanted to get on the water. I have memories of coming to the end of the NET spur in Connecticut, almost at Connecticut River shoreline, but finding a power plant in the way. That was frustrating. So close and yet so far. Here, the trail comes off of Mt Tom and has a brief road walk under I-91 to arrive at a state boat ramp. 

Looking west: M-M coming down from Mt Tom to the left to the boat ramp

An importantly, my husband thought it looked fun, too, and so we set our kayaks in the water on a Friday morning, deliberately avoiding the weekend powerboat traffic. There were a few older fishermen using the boat ramp, but everything was pretty quiet and peaceful. We also had perfect weather an no wind. 

Boat Ramp
Once out on the water, we just poked around the water exploring and enjoying the views. It was fun.

We saw lots of wildlife. A deer wandered about along the shoreline for about five minutes. A great blue heron stalked the shallows and of course there were ducks. A kingfisher hunted from the overhead powerlines, and what I think was probably an American bittern flew up from the weeds a few times as we paddled by.

Under I-91 looking back towards the CT River and Mt Holyoke beyond

Pickerel Weed
In the water, fish darted by and invasive mystery snails covered the muddy bottom.

Mystery Snail, and invader from Asia

At one point I got out of the kayak onto the classic floodplain filled with willow and silver maple, along with yellow flowers I believe were nodding bur marigold.

Floodplain with willow, silver maple, and nodding bur marigold

Nodding Bur Marigold, a native of wet borders

Cardinal Flower

Button Bush
We only got as far as the first big turn in the oxbow, and then decided it was time to head back towards the boat ramp and pick up my backpack from the car to cross the Connecticut River and begin Section 7 of the M-M Trail.

This is as far as we got. Because we're lazy kayakers. 

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