Getting out of doors this time of year in Vermont’s Mad River Valley is the obvious choice for really enjoying life – and what calls strongest on a hot, summer day than a chance to be out on some cool, flowing water? Not much.
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As the weather continues to warm, the foliage begins to green, and the Winooski and Mad rivers begin to swell, thoughts turn to canoeing and kayaking Mad River Valley.
Canoeing is increasing in popularity, especially in ecologically-minded states like Vermont. It is both peaceful and physically challenging, a rewarding, aesthetic and ecologically sound recreational activity.
The Winooski River is one of Vermont’s many spectacular resources. The second longest river in the state, it flows through mountains and farmland, the state’s capital and the largest city before emptying into Lake Champlain.
The river corridor brings the towns, farms and people of the Green Mountain State within the direct view of the canoeist.
One of the paddling routes near our Bed and Breakfast is from Montpelier to the Middlesex Dam, about a six mile trip. You can get to Montpelier from our Inn along Route 100 & 100B North in 35 minutes.
When beginning a canoe trip from Montpelier, there are several good places to put in. One is at the northeast corner of Montpelier High School located on Bailey Avenue. Another is underneath the Interstate 89 overpass on the right side of the river on Rt. 2. Plenty of parking is available at both areas. If you would like to run a short section of easy rapids, put in another 1.25 miles upstream from the high school on the right bank. This access can be reached through local parking areas.
Canoeing the stretch between the Interstate 89 overpass and Middlesex Dam is very relaxing and pleasant.
The current is slow and the course meanders past farmhouses and pastureland. Many large dairy farms are visible along this stretch and much of the land is cultivated. Trees are of the wetland variety, such as willows and alders.
About 2.5 miles downstream where Interstate 89 and the train tracks closely parallel the river, there is a small section of rapids. Pull out on the left bank before the rapids to decide on the best route to proceed.
Another take-out and launching area is 1.25 miles further downriver, before the Route 100B bridge where Route 2 curves with the bend of the river. The bank is low here and from this access a store is within easy reach by foot. If you are unsure of your ability to reach the Middlesex Dam access area safely or do not want to negotiate its short, yet steep hill, you can disembark here.
Middlesex Gorge just above the dam is one of the most spectacular areas on the river with rock walls towering 75 feet above the water in some places. Remember that like all dams on the river, the Middlesex Dam is potentially dangerous and should be approached with caution. Boat barriers in the form of floating barrels span the river under the Route 100B bridge. DO NOT GO BEYOND THE BRIDGE!
The take out is on the left side of the river, just before the bridge. The bank here is quite steep and though it is a short distance you may require a rope to pull your canoe up to the road.
Paddling on the Winooski River is a great way to spend a spring day in Vermont! If you wish you can rent canoes and associated equipment from Clearwater Sports, and depending on your plans they may be able to assist with transportation.