Paddlers ‘overwhelmed’ by river’s beauty
By Kara Wilbeck
May, 12, 2011
KENT — The Housatonic River Source-to-Sound Paddle Trip explored Kent’s history-filled portion of the river on Monday, May 9, the seventh day of the excursion.
The paddle was led by championship paddlers Nic Osborn of Salisbury, Bill Tingley of Sharon and Schuyler Thomson of Norfolk — who were recreating their paddle down the 149-mile Housatonic River together in 1995.
The paddlers started the Kent leg of their voyage in Cornwall Bridge and continued through the morning until they reached a small beach near the Sloan Stanley Museum in Kent.
On the shore of the river, Kent Historical Society Executive Director Marge Smith gave a presentation about the history of the iron industry in Kent. This presentation was only one of many history, culture and conservation-themed events offered along the route by the Housatonic Valley Association, which coordinated the trip.
Smith explained that settlers chose to live in Kent in the early 1700s after discovering there were large amounts of iron ore here. Equally enticing were the fast-running river (to provide power and water) and the abundance of trees, which could be burned in the iron furnaces.
The iron industry created abundant wealth in Kent for many years and created a town that to this day remains thriving and bustling, Smith said.
She passed around bits of something that’s often found on the shores of the Housatonic here in the Northwest Corner: slag which is a byproduct of the iron industry. The slag resembles glass, and is a vibrant blue/ green hue.
After the presentation at the Sloane Stanley Museum, the three paddlers and some fellow travelers who were joining them for portions of the trip, piled into six canoes and three kayaks and got back on their way.
The voyagers made a stop at the headquarters of the Kent Land Trust, where they ate lunch and learned about the land trust’s efforts to preserve Kent’s rural character and open spaces.
After lunch the paddlers got back in their boats —for the third time that day — and finished their tour of Kent near Bull’s Bridge.
Monday evening they celebrated the Housatonic Valley Association’s 70th birthday with a party at the Bull’s Bridge Inn.
On Tuesday, May 10, the voyage continued on through New Milford to Lake Lillinonah in Bridgewater.
Tingley said that the portion of the river traveled in Kent was about 60 percent of the way down the Housatonic toward Long Island Sound.
“Unfortunately after this portion of the river, we’re heading toward flat water,” Tingley said. “We’re getting out of the rocky rapids that give us the adrenaline boost.”
During the rougher legs of the voyage, Tingley said, obstacles often forced them to get out and carry their canoes on solid ground until they reached a place where it was safe to re-enter the exceptionally high, fast river water.
Tingley also emphasized a huge difference he has seen in the river since the last time he and his friends completed this voyage: The Housatonic River is now much cleaner.
“We used to see shopping carts and dumped trash in a lot of places,” he said. “Now it seems that the riverside landowners are very cognizant that they’re bordering a natural resource. It’s beautiful to see the amazing lack of development along this river. We’re overwhelmed once again by the unspoiled beauty of the Housatonic, and everyone with us has been feeling the same thing.”