The Blackstone River, river view

View from the water–Blackstone Greenway/Triad bridge in front of us, active railroad beyond the bike path, footing for the third bridge on the right, which was never completed

We have done little kayaking in the last number of years because of a serious shoulder injury by the one who does the heavy lifting to get our kayak into the water. We have become adept at figuring out how to continue doing what we love, regardless physical abilities. We are back to being able to use our tandem kayak, with the helping hand of a small trolling motor that reduces the strain on shoulders.

Boat ramp at the Blackstone Gorge, Blackstone, MA

Now to find the best places to visit where the trolling motor will not become fouled in late season water weeds. We headed out for a test run to the Blackstone River, departing from the Blackstone Gorge.

Gate blocks the boat ramp–be prepared

The gate at the boat ramp is locked, so we first had to thread our way under the gate, and through a number of folks who had gathered at the head of the gorge. We were losing daylight, or else we would have left and returned another time.

Kayak ready to travel, trolling motor added down at the water

Getting into and back out of kayaks is challenging for me, but thanks to time spent with the Blackstone Heritage Corridor Adaptive Kayaking program last year, I had some great chances to practice climbing in and out of their kayaks with assistance. We are all built different, but figuring out what worked for me made the difference between struggling and managing the transitions with relative ease.

Even with the trolling motor, we both still paddled. It meant that instead of propelling the whole weight of the boat on our own, we had a small assist going up river.

Almost immediately we spotted a great blue heron, flying upriver in front of us, then settling onto an overhanging branch. It held still as we quietly paddled past. Another heron showed up in this same branch of the river. No pictures, we were still getting used to handling the boat. Took some pictures in my mind…

Once we found the main course of the river, we headed upstream. I remembered reaching a low structure over the river–it has been quite a few years since we had visited here. About a mile upstream we came to the Triad Bridge, along with the active railroad bridge, much closer to the water. Was this what we’d seen? How could we not have recognized this as the Triad bridge?

Clear view of the active railroad bridge, the Triad bridge beyond, and in the middle of the photo, the bridge abutments for the third, planned railroad line

In fact, it has been too many years. Since we were last here, viewing the bridge structures from the water, the SNETT/Blackstone Greenway has now been completed, and the bike path that uses the Triad Bridge is a shining structure, painted, complete, providing easy walking and pedaling back and forth across the Blackstone River.

Bridge abutments have remained in the river for the past one hundred+ years

The bridge abutments that were intended for the third railroad line crossing remain in the river, slowly eroding. But they have stood in place for over one hundred years. It will take more time before these concrete structures are finally washed away.

As we gazed at the bridge, an osprey soared into view. The late afternoon light caught the bird’s white breast, which glowed in the last light of day. We turned back to get home before dark, and spotted a second osprey also patrolling the river. Both birds soared along the corridor of the river, perched high in the trees next to the water, then launched themselves back into the air, each time catching more sunlight as the shadows lengthened.

My cell phone was completely inadequate to capture these birds flight high above the river. More pictures in my mind…

And uneventful trip up and back was exactly what we hoped for, on our maiden voyage with our new companion to help us on the way. There is something magical about floating just above the water’s edge, rocking gently across the small waves that flowed under us as a motor boat passed by in the river.

Climbing out of the kayak was done with less grace than I would wish, but with a smile. Yes! I love messin’ about in boats. The boat carrier rolled back up the boat ramp and underneath the gate, bringing our boat back ready to get loaded. The crowds had left, the Gorge was much quieter, and we still had a little daylight.

Figuring out how to spend enjoyable time outdoors is different for each person. It can take some imagination, creativity, and for some situations, some really hard work. At least for me, the end result is joy. Whether you are paddling, pedaling, running or walking, here’s hoping you find ways to make it work. Happy trails!


Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionMore Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionEasy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.

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