Kayaking and Canoeing
This is one of my favorite subjects and a current summer passion. (No pun intended, but always fun.) I will focus on Northwest CT for now, but salt water and ocean fun is just an hour or so away from my area and I seek it out whenever I can.
Lake Waramaug and the Housatonic have already been discussed, so I will turn your attention to some of my favorite places to paddle for scenery and get-aways.
Very well hidden in the Litchfield Hills is a little place called Burr Pond. Located between Torrington and Winsted, just off Rt. 8, this little gem of a pond is a great place to get away from it all. There is a state park for swimming, picnicking and maybe a little easy hiking. But a little past the main entrance is a free, cartop boat launch. The water is dark, but warm and the entire rim of the pond is bordered with blueberry bushes; some of which can only be accessed by boat. They ripen between mid-July and August and are free for the taking. There are little rock islands near one cove of the lake and fishing is said to be very good. There is a foot trail around the pond for an easy afternoon or morning walk in the woods. There are also kayaks and canoes for rent if you don’t have one yet.
This is the largest lake in CT and man-made. It begins at the north end in New Milford and runs just under 12 miles to the south into Danbury. There are public parks here and there around the lake; at the north is Dykes point and at the south is Lattin’s Cove. On the lake are many islands to explore, but check with the local marinas. Most of them are privately owned. A navigation chart of the lake will put you on to the right ones for a picnic or swim break from the paddling. There is also a very nice launch near the town of New Fairfield at Squantz pond. A small jut of the lake is cut off by a causeway to form Squantz pond on one side and Lake Candlewood on the other. There are seperate launches for both. The lake is stocked with trout and bass, and bass tournaments are held several times a year. Out of Lattin’s Cove you can paddle north and to the right of the first big island, turn 90 degrees to starboard and head to shore. You’ll find a beautiful restaurant called “Down the Hatch.” The food is wonderful, the staff is friendly and the atmosphere is very nautical with a sheltered deck overlooking the lake.
The Bantam River begins in Litchfield and runs into and out of Bantam Lake. In the spring there are several areas that make a nice whitewater run; one beginning in Litchfield and running into White’s Woods just below the Golf course, and one running from Stoddard Road in Bantam and into Washington where it joins with the Shepaug. There is a small, broken down dam in the Morris section which requires high water and good experience to run. Most people portage around it as there is a big rock in the middle. Follow someone with experience on that section or scout it out beforehand.
Between the golf course and Bantam lake it’s all very flat water and full of wildlife. On any given day after 5 PM you can spot a multitude of beavers along with ducks, geese, swans, mink, muskrats, herons, cranes and turtles. Keep your eyes open for “Old Charlie.” He’s the biggest snapping turtle you will ever want to meet. He is easily as wide as most canoes. Bring your birding binoculars along too. Being a wildlife sanctuary, you just might spot that rare find to add to your life list.
The Shepaug, (pronounced shep-AUG) begins in Woodville, just south of Bantam and offers a whitewater run from there to Bridgewater; a total of about 16 miles. It can be accessed in Woodville just off Rt. 202, or at Bee Brook crossing on Rt. 47 in Washington, the latter being the longer run. Both are exciting and take you through Hidden Valley and on down to Steep Rock reservation. I prefer the southern end from Bee Brook to Hodge park in Bridgewater. It’s 9.5 miles of great variation in water and scenery. Up to a class 2 in places, especially when the water is high, it takes you through nearly 10 miles of pure wilderness. Only when you can hear cars on pavement do you really know that the end of the run is near. For the die-hard whitewater fans, it has many wonderful features, plenty of bouncy waves, quiet pools, picnic areas, swimming holes, and many places to practice various techniques. A great place to grow in your skills, I consider it a very technical river.
A little pond, located in South Kent, this is a great escape for the bass fishermen. Kayaks, canoes and any cartoppers can be launched from the south end of the pond. It’s probably about a half-mile long or so, but if you just want to be out in the country and do some fishing, this is a great place to be.
Twin Lakes is located in Salisbury in the Northwest of Litchfield county. It actually appears to be 3 lakes when paddling as you cross under 2 railroad bridges to get to the main lake. If you paddle here, be advised that it is full of zebra mussels, a very invasive species that deprives the lake of oxygen, and you are asked to wash your boat and gear with a 50-50 bleach and water solution to kill any larvae and prevent the spread into other waters. They can lie dormant on your boat for up to 2 weeks.
That said, this area has a lot to offer. There are salmon and trout among others and it’s a popular fishing spot. On Isola Bella, there is a camp for the deaf and an historical landmark tower that no one seems to know much about. There is a lot of boat traffic in the main lake so it can get pretty bouncy for the smaller watercraft. Out on the final stretch of lake it’s much quieter. At the end of a long channel you will find the ultimate getaway. There is a river that flows from the last lake and once you turn the corner into it, you would believe that you might just have jumped to a Louisiana bayou. You are away from all road traffic among the woods with a few homes sitting just off the water. People are very friendly and welcome a chat if they’re out there.
This beautiful lake is part of the Barkhamsted reservoir system and is open to boating, swimming and fishing. There are three beaches, and the boathouse and launch. Two of the beaches are open to the public, and the third is town residents only. To get in for boating, there is a nominal fee for parking and a per boat launch fee. If you can get 3 or 4 kayaks or canoes on one car you only pay one parking fee, but boats are paid for seperately for launching. Swimming is allowed ONLY on the open beaches and not from the boats or islands. This is strictly enforced by monitors and boat police, but you CAN land on the islands and browse around or fish. There is a small park in one of the coves with a walk-way through the woods to Goose Green beach, and informational plaques along the way. This is one of the most beautiful lakes I know of with warm waters and extremely clear. The bottom can be easily seen to 15 or 20 feet deep. For those who are terrified of snakes, you might explore carefully. It seems to be a haven for watersnakes, and some have been there for quite a while. But unless you bother them, they will most likely run from you first. The lake is also full of very scenic coves winding lazily in and out of the pines that line the shore. In them, you might find little turtles paddling around, and looking carefully around fallen trees in the water, you might spot the next generation of frogs in the making, (frogs eggs attached to twigs in the water). If you prefer to have a nice lunch, brunch or breakfast before you hit the water, out on Rt. 44 is a fantastic restaurant called the Log House. On weekends they sport a tremendous breakfast buffet and their lunches and dinners are real homestyle. I personally recommend the Roast Beef dinner or Blueberry pancake breakfast.