Recently I had a bit of a mental meltdown. I’ve been wanting to own a kayak for years, but have kept putting it off. I was renting them periodically, but I really wanted to paddle more often and in different locations. For various reasons (none of them legit) I didn’t buy.
I was so excited when I saw the boat rentals opportunity at the Blessing of the Bay boathouse via Somerville Recreation. It even had a picture of a kayak! When I went down on a Sunday to check one out, I found out they were only renting canoes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that—but for me, a canoe is too much. So I was pushed over the edge, and hunted down used kayaks. Yesterday a nice kayak rental place in Gloucester sold me one of their summer stock. (It’s a good time of year to pick up rentals that are finished for the season on sale, by the way.)
Not quite as auspicious as the first boat made in Massachusetts in 1631–called, not coincidentally–Blessing of the Bay, I launched my
mid-life crisis kayak.
So today I took my first trip, about two miles each way on the Mystic River. I was delighted to see a couple of families renting the boats. Even the pair of canoes that were kicking my butt on the way out (but had to be towed back in later, giggle…). Ducks, geese, a massive and stunning blue heron, and something that looked like a sandpiper or plover were hanging around. Huge dragonflies were everywhere–but I couldn’t get them to stop so I could identify them. Smaller bright blue ones did land on my boat and travel along with me for a while.
Certainly it’s not exactly isolated and pristine. You can hear the noise from 93 and other roads along the water in some places. A couple of boats with engines also went by (slowly). Plastic bottles float on past. But it’s not going to be like it was in this image from 1790, and we can’t expect that. But you can still have quite a nice day with many spots all to yourself. And at some points you can almost feel transported back in time, as you come across a section where there has been some activity for many many years.
But let’s also not forget that between the arrival of the boat-builders and various other folks who used and worked along the Mystic River for that last few hundred years, there were times when it was very far from pristine.
By 1865, overfishing and pollution all but eliminated commercial fishing.
It was abused, certainly. Various intentional and unintentional features of the activity along the river have altered it in many ways. But there are some folks who have been working on improving the quality of the Mystic River Watershed for a long time. When I went looking for boat launching spots for my new toy, I came across the pages for the MyRWA–Mystic River Watershed Association. I learned about the activities they’ve been doing, including water testing, invasive species cleanup, and even a hugely successful herring monitoring program. Did you know that recently this news broke: Nearly 200K Herring Make First Migratory Run Up Mystic River Since Civil War.
This is good news. This river is a treasure that’s been very good to our region. And I am glad to see this group is being good to it.
I also noted that they have a big celebration coming up. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the MyRWA. And they are throwing a party on September 8th! There will be paddling, art, and music. Here’s a link to their invitation to everyone:
Come by bike, boat, on foot or drive. Bring strollers and your dog – whatever usually brings you to the shores of this urban beauty. We have a full family-friendly schedule that will stretch from the dam to Alewife Brook as we plan to have artists and music along the banks for your morning enjoyment.
Note: they have a special rental opportunity if you don’t have a boat.
I’m enjoying the Mystic in new ways. And now I’m going to get involved with things like the water chestnut cleanup with my new kayak. And as nice as it was to have it to myself today, I think it would be good if more people appreciated the work that’s been done to get the river to the state it’s in today where we can use it, and I’d love to see you and your family and friends out there on some sweet fall day perhaps.
Sometimes it feels like there aren’t many environmental “wins” these days. But maybe on September 8 2012 you’ll come out to some of these events, rent a boat, or at least think of this river fondly the next time you cross over it in your car. And thank the folks who have been chipping away at a really big task, and winning.
- MyRWA http://mysticriver.org/
- 40th Anniversary celebration details: http://mysticriver.org/40th-anniversary/