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Marion Larson

Marion Larson

Outreach Coordinator, MassWildlife

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Last June, I kayaked a portion of the Squannacook River, a cold river which wends its way from the towns of Townsend, Groton and Shirley. My first experience with this river was in the mid-1980’s as a rookie Natural Resource Officer (now called Environmental Police Officer) when I took a downstream trip with an officer who was “breaking me in.” We dressed in regular outdoor clothing instead of the uniform, packed lunch coolers, stowed ticket books in a waterproof ammunition box, and launched our canoe in West Townsend, close to the Willard Brook State Forest.

Impoundment area, Squannacook River 

Because we looked like an ordinary couple enjoying the day, it was easy to paddle up to anglers on the riverbanks, ask about the fishing and then ask if they had a fishing license!  It was the height of the trout stocking season and we checked many fishermen that day.  There were a fair number of anglers who didn’t have a license—at which point they often received a ticket and always given the advice to reel in their lines and buy a license! It took us all day to paddle downstream to our cruiser parked in West Groton, but it was one of the most enjoyable days of my time in law enforcement.

The river flows through the DFW’s Squannacook River Wildlife Management Area.  The amount of land protected by DFW in this area has expanded since the 1980’s and now includes nearly 1000 acres in Townsend, Groton, and Shirley. The Squannacook offers some interesting portages, including one area called Townsend Harbor where a historic cooperage (basket-making facility) stands.  
On the holiday weekend, my husband and I put in at the Vose launching area in West Groton and paddled upstream. Tight spot in Squannacook River

Here the river is dammed by the Hollingsworth and Vose factory and we explored a series of impoundments and dead ends. We finally found the mainstem of the river and paddled into a narrower, forest-canopied waterway. Despite the midday hour, many songbirds were in full voice, Wood lilies bloomed in several areas and dragonflies zipped all around us. Downed trees due to the flooding and the ice storm of a few years ago made for some challenging paddling as evidenced by my husband squeezing through one tight spot. Surprisingly, we only encountered two groups of paddlers during our three-hour trip. A couple of people carried cameras and one woman peered through binoculars. The only fishing activity we saw was from a Great Blue Heron and a Kingfisher!

Wood lilies, Squannacook River

The Nashua River Watershed Association offers a useful paddling guide you can order for the Nashua River and its main tributaries, including the Squannacook River.

Also, check out the Squannacook River Wildlife Management Area Map.

Nearby state properties:

DCR's Willard Brook State Forest, Ashby. This property offers camping, swimming, hiking and horseback riding trails. DCR's Pearl Hill State Park in Townsend also offers swimming and camping. A 4 mile trail connects to the two properties. 

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