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Barton Cove closed due to high water

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Closed due to high water in Gill

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Closed due to high water in Gill

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>The boat ramp for the Connecticut River in Gill is closed due to high water.

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    The boat ramp for the Connecticut River in Gill is closed due to high water.

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Closed due to high water in Gill
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>The boat ramp for the Connecticut River in Gill is closed due to high water.

Boaters, canoers and kayakers who wanted to escape the oppressive heat and humidity on the Fourth of July and spend their day cruising the Connecticut River between Gill and Northfield got a surprise when they found the ramps to the river in both towns closed because of high waters.

“This is very unusual for this time of year,” said Chuck Burnham, spokesman for FirstLight Power, which runs the hydroelectric facility on Northfield Mountain and owns Barton Cove Campground and Canoe Shuttle Service.

Burnham said FirstLight reports water levels to the state Department of Conservation and Recreation and then the DCR decides whether to let people on the river.

“We heard there had been a lot of rain this past week in Vermont and that flows were extremely high, so we reported that to the DCR,” said Burnham. “They took it from there.”

Burnham said FirstLight, and the state, like to see flows at about 15,000 cubic feet per second. He said on July 4 they were at 65,000 cubic feet per second and on July 5 they were at 41,000 cubic feet per second.

“It’s all the rain, and Vermont really got whacked a few days before the Fourth of July,” said Burnham. “It typically happens in the spring when everything is melting. I think there are probably lots of generators in Vermont lowering ponds to prevent flooding and it’s all coming down here.”

No one from the DCR could be reached by phone or email for comment on Friday, but there were a couple of fishermen talking about the situation on a Massachusetts Anglers Internet forum.

One, who uses the name “Capt. Shay” on the forum, said he had gone to the bridge in Northfield on Wednesday and the river was trying to breach the banks. He said he’d never seen the river so high in July in his life.

“There’s a whole lot of water that needs to drain out of the system right now,” said “Capt. Shay.”

Another man, who uses the name “Gary P.,” said there is a lot of debris in the water right now. He said he didn’t blame the state for closing the ramps. He said the Barton ramp is deceiving, because the river will look normal because it is wide open there. He said once you get on the river, “the current will get you!”

“Gary P.” also cautioned about the area under the French King Bridge, which is known by some as Bonzai Pipeline because the gorge constricts the water.

On Friday at noon, when the parking lot to the boat ramp on Barton Cove is full when weather conditions are good, the gate was locked and there was no one about.

Turners Falls Fire Department said fire and police were notified, but had nothing to do with the closing or with letting people know.

It is not clear when the ramps will reopen, but Burnham said he thought it would happen once the water gets closer to the 15,000 cubic feet per second.

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