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A Journey From Beginning to End: CRC Celebrating Connecticut River

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    Teenagers participate in a recent "splash mob" event in Holyoke, Mass., to celebrate the Connecticut River. Several splash mobs will be staged in the Upper Valley this week as part of the Connecticut River Conservancy's source to sea jump-in journey commemorating the non-profit's 65th anniversary. Connecticut River Conservancy photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/18/2017 12:17:35 AM
Modified: 7/19/2017 3:05:20 PM

From northern New Hampshire to Long Island Sound, those who enjoy the Connecticut River will find many ways to celebrate it over the next several weeks.

The Connecticut River Conservancy on Sunday began commemorating its 65th anniversary with a source-to-sea jump-in journey, a series of paddling events, parties and discussions in and around the length of the river, including a handful in the Upper Valley beginning on Thursday.

The public is invited to participate in splash mobs — mass jumping into the water in a display of support — as part of the festivities organized by CRC, formerly the Connecticut River Watershed Council, which since 1952 has aimed to prevent pollution, improve wildlife habitat and promote enjoyment of the Connecticut and its tributary streams.

Events began on Sunday with a hike to the source of the river at the Fourth Connecticut Lake in Pittsburg, N.H., and continues today with paddling along its upper reaches before entering the Upper Valley for events on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“On this 65th anniversary, we think it’s a great way to celebrate the progress we’ve made while looking ahead to the work that must be done over the next 65 years,” said CRC executive director Andrew Fisk in a recent phone interview from the organization’s headquarters in Greenfield, Mass. “All of the events are open to the public, and we’ll be recording interviews to get people’s stories about the ways they enjoy the river.”

That includes a Thursday splash mob in Hanover beginning at 1:30 p.m., followed by pontoon rides with residents from Kendal retirement community.

“Some of those folks have spent their whole lives on the river, and I’m sure they have great stories about what it means to them,” Fisk said.

On Friday at 1:30 p.m., the Lyme Town Band will join the CRC for a river parade from the Orford boat launch about five miles south to the home of Laura and Terry Smith near North Thetford Road in Lyme. U.S. Representatives Annie Kuster and Peter Welch, from New Hampshire and Vermont, respectively, have been invited to participate.

An after party at the Smiths, the first of several land gatherings along the source-to-sea journey, is intended to allow participants not only celebrate the river but discuss future endeavors related to its health. Ongoing challenges include newly imposed federal rollbacks of environmental regulations, efforts to remove defunct dams and the restoration of migratory fish populations.

“It’s important that we stay engaged and continue to communicate what these issues mean to us and what we can do about them,” Fisk said. “That’s why an organization like ours has been successful for the last 65 years.”

On Saturday at 11:30 a.m., CRC staff is joining a group called the Mill Pond River Pigs for the latter’s annual Kennetticut River Kayak Run — the play on words in honor of River Pigs member Larry Kennett — for a nine-mile paddle from the Cornish-Windsor covered bridge to the Claremont boat landing. The day culminates at 4 p.m. at the Windsor Welcome Center for an open conversation with Fisk and numerous civic leaders to discuss visions for improving recreational access and economic development tied to the Connecticut River.

“The river is a tremendous resource, and we’re always striving to help people become more connected to it,” Fisk said. “We’ll discuss strategies about new recreation opportunities and infrastructure, and the ways to make them possible.”

On Sunday, the CRC will hold a scuba diving event and splash mob in Brattleboro, Vt., as well as a riverboat cruise with Abenaki tribal leaders discussing the Native American history of the river, beginning and ending at the Northfield Mountain Recreation Facility in Northfield, Mass.

They’ll return to Brattleboro next Monday for a party from 4-7 p.m. at the Whetstone Station restaurant and brewpub — fittingly overlooking the Connecticut River — to recognize the retirement of longtime CRC steward David Deen while introducing his successor, Kathy Urffer.

After a waterskiing event and splash mob on July 25 in Easthampton, Mass., the next day’s festivities feature a challenge race in dragon boats (traditional wooden watercraft with Chinese-dragon-themed designs) in Northampton.

On July 27, a paddle from Holyoke to Springfield, Mass., will revisit a stretch that, according to Fisk, was home to the first U.S. intercollegiate rowing match, between Harvard and Yale, in 1865.

Events to round out the CRC’s source-to-sea journey include paddling with the American Heritage River Commission, an afternoon of bass fishing and a ride on Onrust, a replica of the first European ship to sail the Connecticut River in 1614.

“Native Americans, of course, were on the river long before that, but (Dutch explorer) Adriaen Block was the first European to sail it,” Fisk noted. “We’ll be joining folks from the Connecticut River Museum (in Essex, Conn.) for that.”

For updated information about the Connecticut River Conservancy’s source-to-sea jump-in journey, including splash mob locations and times, visit or call 413-772-2020 ext. 204.

Jared Pendak can be reached at or 603-727-3225.

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