West Branch of the Sebasticook River-Pittsfield to Hartland                                                       

The West Branch of the Sebasticook runs from Great Moose Lake, in Hartland south to where itís joined by the West Branch, coming from Newport, above the Peltoma Bridge in Pittsfield. Weíll take that part of the trip another time. This portion of the trip begins at the local Pinnacle Ski Clubhouse on Waverly Avenue in Pittsfield. After launching take an immediate left to head upstream. On the right as you begin is the Waverly Bridge and just beyond that a dam holding the river back and providing the head for a small hydro facility. After a short paddle you'll find yourself passing under the two bridges of Interstate 95. I always find it interesting to be under bridges. Sometimes it makes me wonder just how often anyone takes a look at the understructure of our bridges. These happen to have some paint peeling but mostly they appear sound.

Not long after passing the bridges a mature bald eagle flew over at treetop level. Even though eagles are making a remarkable recovery, they're still impressive to see. As you travel upstream you'll notice that the river quickly widens out and becomes Douglas Pond. Should you want to at this point, head to the right side of the boggy pond and see if you can locate the outlet from the Madawaska Bog. I discussed that outlet in a previous column.

Continue along and admire the various birds and plants along the way. Itís time (late July) for the cardinal flowers to begin blooming in the shallows. This tall, bright red plant (Lobelia) always surprises me when I see it in the wild. Kingfishers, eastern kingbirds, various swallows, ducks and great blue herons are just a few of the birds you'll see. Thereís ample evidence of beaver in the stream though we didnít happen to see any on this trip.

Halfway to Hartland, you'll pass under Rt 2. Look at the differences in the construction of this state built bridge from the Federal bridges you passed earlier. This one appears to be made of Corten, an alloy that doesnít need painting and is protected by the oxidation that forms soon after it is put into place. High-strength and corrosion resistant, I donít understand why itís not used more. I'm sure our leaders have the answer to that questionÖ

At this point you'll be about one and half hours from your starting point. You can return to the launch site or continue on to Hartland, where you'll pass the cement plant and the pollution control facility and come right up to the Tannery. The river has become cleaner since the 80s when the tannery ended tanning operations and became a leather finishing plant, one with a reputation for some of the finest leathers in the world.  Along the way you'll also see where Indian Stream comes into the river from St Albans and Big Indian Lake.

This is a really nice trip for several reasons, not the least of which is that this part of the river has little development on it. Itís a good trip to pack a picnic lunch and spend the whole day on the water. I prefer the larger canoe when taking a lot of gear but you get to decide which of your boats to use on any day.

There's ample parking at the launch site right by the bridge on Waverly Avenue in Pittsfield, across from the Town Highway Department.

As always, remember to clean any vegetation off your boats before you leave the area so as not to transport invasive plants to the next body of water you visit. Enjoy your paddling Ė see you on the water

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