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Connecticut River in Connecticut

Trip Overview

Holyoke, Mass. to Essex, Conn.

Always wanted to run the Conn river in spring high water from Northampton, MA all the way down to Long Island Sound. Got on my motorcycle and went and scouted the tricky spots. Also wanted to see how high the river actually is at 35,000cfs (Holyoke). I'm only used to 3000 cfs summer time levels.

Found out Holyoke dam a pain to portage. Long. You have to get out at the 202 bridge (not easy access) and go way down below the 116 bridge to the end of a small park, a good mile portage. Decided just to start the trip below the dam, 80 mile from the Sound

Then I checked out Enfield dam, or the remains of it. About 100 yards of class 2 rapids and then 2 miles of class 1. Looked kind of tempting to run, but what with the cold water temps and a kayak loaded with camp gear, I scoped out the portage.

The trip:

Day 1 -
Put in below 116 bridge in Holyoke at 8:30 am. Water at 35,000 cfs. Running fast, no rapids, not flooded over the banks. Flew down into Springfield, made the 109 bridge in Enfield by noon. Pulled out right side right under the bridge. The busted Enfield dam is about 100 yards beyond the bridge. There is a paved bike trail there, so easy to wheel boat about 300 yards to the start of the canal. In lower water, you could put back in the river here, but it was still pretty rough looking, 2 foot standing waves, so I popped right into the canal and paddled down a history for about a mile.

Right before the canal takes a wide right turn (and across the conn river from the Enfield boat ramp), I carried up the bank, over the bike trail, and bushwacked back down into the main river. Did the next 2 miles in like 10 minutes of really fast but not quite rapid water. Fun! Would have been tough to get out if I went over, due to speed of water along the shore.

Made Hartford by 5pm, camped 5 miles south of town on a remote stretch of bank. (low of 32 degrees)

Day 2 -
Woke up to higher water. back of boat in water, good thing I tied it off just in case. Found out later that the river went up to 52,000 cfs at Holyoke (58,000 Thompsonville) river was flooded over lower bank and running through trees in some areas. At first I thought this was scary, as far as getting out of the river, but it was no prob.

I flew along at 8 miles an hour between my paddling and the current and wind at my back. What a day! When I did want to take a break, I'd find a huge tree sticking out from the shore and duck into the eddy it created behind it.

Got to Essex at 3pm and had to pull out because of my ride. Would have made the Sound in under 2 more hours.

Awesome trip!


Mud banks and vine infested woods. Seriously, I found NO easy places to get out and grab a bite... Even Hartford had nothing I could walk to. (Lots of riverfront places not open yet in April)


12.5 Tsumani kayak, 2 hatches, light camping gear. Had skirt but never used it. Neoprene gloves = awesome.




Conn. river Boating Guide has good directions...


Made my own map by pasting together images from google maps. also Conn. River Guide book

  • Duration: 2-3 Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Advanced
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip