Sunday, June 14, 2009

From the Carver Cotton Gin Mill to the Summer Street Bridge on the Taunton River

When we hit Rt. 106, we went under the bridge (mistakenly) and ended up in a complex of the Carver Cotton Gin Mill. The mill was owned by the Carver Cotton Gin Company between its establishment in 1842 and was used to manufacture cotton gins and later oilseed processing equipment until the early 1990's. The Carver Cotton Gin Company is still around as Cotton, Inc, with its new headquarters in Savannah, Georgia.

The dam and factory must have been of great use over the years for making cotton gins; however, it posed a problem for us as the only way to follow the river was to paddle down a narrow spillway through the dam. Instead, after investigation, we decided that the best way to move forward was to carry the canoe up the steep bank and portage around the spillway, putting in just afterward to carefully make our way past and underneath the factory.

After making it past the factory, we entered the last stretches of the Satucket River --- an incredibly tiring portion of the trail --- where it winds behind residences in a forested area. Pretty as the river continued to be, we were tired and dehydrated enough to not appreciate the many oxbows and even more numerous downed trees. It seemed as if there were always a downed tree right around the corner, so that right after we had gotten back in the canoe, we'd spot another obstruction ahead and have to get out yet again to portage. Needless to say, about halfway through this part of the trip we realized it was probably best to eat lunch, and jumped up on the bank for a much needed break.

We were never happier when the river finally came out into the open and broadened, the frequency of logs blocking our way decreasing to a tenth of what it was before. We saw our first otter of the trip; along with maybe 8 Snapping Turtles, and started to pick up speed, making up the distance we had done earlier in a quarter of the time. Trying to make some headway down towards the Taunton, we paddled through the gorgeous last portion of the Satucket River before Bridge Street, the beginning of the Matfield up til High Street, and finally saw the transmission lines that marked right before where the Matfield meets the Town River, and took the left into the Taunton.

The much broader Taunton River proved to be much more navigable than some of the other parts of the passage, and we were able to get around any downed trees in the river --- that is, until we reached one huge tree that spanned the entire passage. Spotting an area where the trunk dipped down, however, we tried to go over it and were rewarded, prompting Seth (and all of us) to celebrate not having to portage. Even more exciting was our completion of the last official portage of the passage: a dam and spillway right after Rt. 104. After 104 the Taunton leaves development behind temporarily to enter a beautiful wooded area, especially right above the Cherry Street Bridge, and this was reflected in the abundance of songbirds, warblers and Great Blue Herons we saw. I was particularly excited to see a few Wilson's Warblers flying back and forth, along with a couple Ospreys we frightened off. We soon passed the Cherry Street Bridge as well, continuing on to where the Taunton flows past beautiful farmland before returning to the forest. Here we saw our second otter of the trip carrying some green vegetation to its burrow, but it ducked underwater before we could take a picture of it. We coordinated at this point with my father, Peter, and friend, D.J. (my dad was coming to pick up Seth and Olaf to drive them home, their portion done, while I would go with D.J. to get ready for the last day) to pick us up at Summer Street, as the Auburn Street Bridge turned out to be non-existent, other than a few burnt pilings.

Along our way to the end-point of our day's journey, we became more and more impressed with the beauty and tranquillity of the forest-bound, swift-flowing Taunton and its wildlife. Trees on either side seemed about to fall in, their roots often exposed by the bank, while other old-growth beauties reached their coronas upward towards the sun. One particular dead tree lying partly in our way looked almost like a post-modern sculpture. By the time we had reached our destination for the day, we were all happy to have experienced the beauty and relative facility of the Matfield and Taunton Rivers --- and to have actually been able to paddle without stopping for more than ten minutes!

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