Connecticut River Reach 21
Elwell Recreation Area to Holyoke Dam Put-In

Last Updated: 8/2018
Elwell Island - Mile 96.7 to Mile 96.0
       This sixty acre island was owned by the city of Northampton but is now part of the Connecticut River Greenway State Park.  It is open to visits of all kinds except camping which is not allowed.
        If you intend to take-out before the Route 9 bridge, then you may want to travel to the right, narrow, side of the island.  Elwell Recreation Area is just after passing under the rail trail bridge (formerly railroad).

Skill Level:            Class 1
Estimated Time:    3.5 hours (If windy longer)
Paddle Distance: 10.7 miles 
Reach Distance:  12.1 miles
USGS Map: Mount Holyoke, MA and Springfield North, MA
[1] Elwell Recreation Area, Route 9 Bridge
                                 in Northampton - Mile 95.9
Position: 42-20.10 N 72-37.25 W
Altitude: 102 feet
Boat Launch:
State Boat Launch for all types of boats.  University Crew boats also launch from here.  Parking is competitive because of the bicycle trail users.
Nearest Launch Address:
390 Damon Road, Northampton, MA 01060
Put-In/Take-Out Directions ( 0.1 miles  1 minutes)
From Interstate 91 Exit 19  Northampton.
  1. Go down the exit ramp to the stop light and continue straight onto Damon Road.
  2. Make an immediate right into the launch area.  This is part of the Connecticut Greenway State Park.
Elwell Recreation Area
Launch using the paved boat ramp or this dock along the river.
Follow the rules.
The beginning of the Rail Trail
{cke_protected}{C}%3C!%2D%2DStartFragment%2D%2D%3E[3] Oxbow State Boat Ramp - Mile 91.0
Position: 42-17.30 N 72-37.10 W
Altitude: 100 feet
Boat Launch:
Paved State Boat Ramp.  There is plenty of parking and a portable toilet available. Located near Manhan Rail Trail
Nearest Launch Address:
978 Mt Tom Road, Easthampton, MA 01027

For complete details click the button below:
Oxbow Pond
Manhan Rail Trail
          Nestled in the heart of the scenic Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, Easthampton’s Manhan Rail Trail offers unique recreational opportunities to people of all ages and interests. Bike, jog, roller blade, cross country ski or simply enjoy a leisurely stroll on what was once a viable rail corridor. The first section of the 5 mile paved trail was completed in 2003 after 10 years of planning and fundraising.  A second section opened in the spring of 2011 and a third section is expected to open this fall. It is proposed that eventually, the trail will connect all the way from New Haven, Connecticut to Northampton, Massachusetts and beyond.​  Learn more at the website below.
Friends of Manhan Rail Trail
{cke_protected}{C}%3C!%2D%2DStartFragment%2D%2D%3E[4] Brunelles Marina - Mile 88.8
Position: 42-15.75 N 72-36.00 W 
{cke_protected}{C}%3C!%2D%2DStartFragment%2D%2D%3EAltitude: 99 feet{cke_protected}{C}%3C!%2D%2DEndFragment%2D%2D%3E
Boat Launch:
Brunelles Marina Inc. is a private marina with full facilities for launching and repair.  There is a restaurant at the launch. 
Marina: 413-536-3132
Dockside: 413-536-2342
Nearest Launch Address:
1 Alvord Street, South Hadley, MA 01075

        This is a nice place to stop and sitting on grass under a shady tree on a summer day might cause you to fall asleep and pass the day by.  After a fire the main building was rebuilt.  There is a restaurant here with quite the menu. (I taught one of the grand daughters on a cadet cruise at Mass. Maritime Academy) Call for hours or try their website:
Dinosaur Footprints - Mile 86.9
        Managed by the Trustees of Reservations in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Management, the Dinosaur Footprints park off Route 5 in Holyoke is a fun and interesting spot to explore. These footprints are preserved in layers of sandstone.
         The dinosaur tracks at this site were among the first to be scientifically described in 1836, and are still visible to visitors. Hundreds of tracks, which were made by as many as four distinct types of two legged dinosaur, are present in the sandstone outcrops. Additional fossils that have been found at the site or nearby include invertebrate burrows, fish, and plants.
    Decades ago when these were first made available to the public, some people defaced some of the tracks.  Fortunately we are past that but please respect the ancient history you observe.
      For more details and even some images, check out the two links below.
Exploring Western MA
Trustees of Reservation
       If you are deciding to stop here use great care.  The water runs over rocks and without a good approach it could flip you quickly.  Try passing the site and approaching from downstream for better control.
See below for details.
Shepherd Island - Mile 93.3
     Owned by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Shepherd's Island began forming in 1729. By 1754, just twenty-five years later, the island had grown to six or seven acres and was already under cultivation. In 1770 the island became the property of Solomon Stoddard, and for the next thirty years the land was known as Stoddard's Island. In 1803, Levi Shepherd purchased the island for $1200 and it became known, as it is today, as Shepherd's Island.
     The island's rather rapid initial growth didn't last and by 1904 the island measured only 15 acres. By then, the land had switched hands again and was owned by the Mount Tom Lumber Company.
       At that time, the Connecticut River was still an important logging river and the Mount Tom Lumber Company had purchased the island in order to construct a series of basalt pilings that would span the river and with a chain, catch logs moving downriver. The logs were slowly released and allowed to flow down to the mill, which was located on Route 5 where the Packaging Corporation of America now stands. Extra logs were stored in the Oxbow, which used to be called the "Old Bed of the Connecticut River". After processing, the pulp was sent to Holyoke's paper mills.
      By the 1950's, logs were no longer being sent down the river and Shepherd's Island was abandoned by the Mount Tom Lumber Company.   Read more at the link below.
Rediscover Northampton
{cke_protected}{C}%3C!%2D%2DStartFragment%2D%2D%3E[5] South Hadley Canal Park - Mile 85.2
Position: 42-13.35 N 72-36.55 W
 Altitude: 92 feet
Boat Launch:
This is for car top only.  Hike into the park down to the water for take-out.
Nearest Launch Address:
99 W Summit Street, South Hadley, MA 01075
Put-In/Take-Out Directions ( 3.1 miles  9 minutes)
From Interstate 91 Exit 16  Route 202 toward South Hadley.
  1. At the end of the ramp take Route 202 toward South Hadley.
  2. Follow Route 202 through Holyoke.
  3. At about mile 2.0, Route 202 crosses the Connecticut River.
  4. At mile 2.5, follow around a large rotary 3/4 of the way around to the Summit Street exit.
  5. At mile 2.8, turn left onto West Summit Street.
  6. Follow down to the South Hadley Canal Park at the end.

Canal Park Take-Out Trail - near West Summit Road
        This take-out is not the most convinent on the river.  You must carry your boat for about a tenth of a mile up hill.  Read some most interesting history below.
{cke_protected}{C}%3C!%2D%2DStartFragment%2D%2D%3E[2] Mitch's Marina - Mile 92.3
Position: 42-18.35 N 72-35.88 W
Altitude: 101 feet
Boat Launch:
Private paved boat ramp.  For details call 413-584-7960
Nearest Launch Address:
2 Mitchs Way, Hadley MA 01035
        This very popular marina has a down to earth culture. Search Facebook for all kinds of info.  Stop here on weekends and get a sandwich or drink.  You can also launch here and leave your car for ten dollars.
Mitch's Marina Launch
South Hadley Canal
    The South Hadley Canal was a canal along the Connecticut River in South Hadley, MA. It is believed to be the earliest navigable canal in the United States, with operation commencing in 1795. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the South Hadley Canal Historic District.
       Rather than use locks, the canal was built with an unusual "inclined plane" to transport 20-foot by 60-foot flatboats over the falls. The inclined plane appears to have been pioneered on England's Ketley Canal in 1788. This was its first use in American canals.
    On the South Hadley Canal's inclined plane, the boat was first maneuvered into a special cart, then hauled up or down a ramp built of solid stone, 275 feet long by 30 feet wide, covered with strong wood planks, and having a slope of 13.5 degrees. Lifting power was supplied by two overshot waterwheels 16 feet in diameter, one on each side of the inclined plane, connected to the cart with chains. The cart had unequal wheel sizes to keep the boat level during transport. Total transport time was about 15 minutes. In 1805, after about 10 years of use, however, the inclined plane was replaced by a series of five locks when it was necessary to deepen the canal.
     Today Canal Park serves as a historic memorial, preserving the remnants of the canal.  Read the rest of this interesting history at Wikipedia by clicking below
​​Route 202 Bridge - Mile 84.7
     This should be the limit of your paddling.  A barrel barrier is located just down river.  If the river is high remember that it is over 0.3 miles wide.  If you are not a strong paddler you could find yourself up against the barrier paddling for your life!

Holyoke Dam 84.4
Altitude above dam: 92 feet
Altitude below dam: 55 feet