New map guides boaters, floaters along scenic river
Bedford resident Ralph Hammond has fond childhood memories of the Concord River, where he swam, boated, and even played ice hockey on the frozen surface.
Though it had been years since he spent much time on the river, Hammond recently helped play a key role in putting together a new trail map that guides boaters exploring the historic scenic river.
He said he hopes the map, the first of its kind for the river, will draw more people to canoe or kayak under the North Bridge, past the Olde Manse, and into the expansive Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge. “I look back to the good old days and what a fortunate place we had to grow up,’’ said Hammond, a member of the Bedford Rotary Club, which helped pay for the map project.
“I am really thrilled with what is being done to bring awareness to the river.’’
The idea for the map was developed by the Sudbury, Assabet & Concord Wild & Scenic River Stewardship Council, of which Hammond is a member, and the nonprofit Organization for the Assabet River, or OARS, which extends its preservation work to the Assabet, Sudbury, and Concord rivers. It was funded by Rotary Club chapters in Concord, Bedford, and Billerica, and Rotary International. Several members took a recent boat ride on the river to celebrate the map’s production, said Alison FieldJuma, executive director of OARS.
The map has both an online and a pocket version, with two self-guided trips down the 11.5-mile stretch of the federally designated wild and scenic section of the river from Concord to Billerica, Field-Juma said. The Concord River is part of a system that is formed by the Assabet and Sudbury rivers. Those two rivers flow north and meet in Concord, where they merge and form the Concord River, which travels north to Lowell and empties into the Merrimack River.
Field-Juma said maps for the Assabet and Sudbury rivers were already available and have been very popular, with thousands distributed over the past few years.
The first trip outlined in the newest map goes from Concord to Bedford and the second from Bedford to Billerica. The map points out historical landmarks and ecological points of interest, and provides practical information, such as where boats can go in and out of the river, said Field-Juma.
“The purpose of it is to encourage people to get out and enjoy the river,’’ she said. “Once people get out on the river, you’re in a different world. You get transported back in nature and stop noticing the highway.’’
Field-Juma said OARS recommends the 5.5-mile route from near Lowell Road in Concord to Route 225 in Bedford.
In Concord, boaters will go by the Old Manse, a National Historic Landmark site that was once home to Ralph Waldo Emerson and Nathaniel Hawthorne, under the North Bridge, the site of the Battle of Concord at the start the American Revolution, and by the wildlife refuge, where there are beaver lodges, birds, and water plants.
Libby Herland, manager of Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge, said boaters will see plants such as buttonbush, purple loosestrife, and pickerelweed.
“It’s green, it’s quiet, and it’s soothing,’’ Herland said.
She said there is a spot along the river marked by a sign where boaters can pull out and use a restroom or embark on a 2-mile hike along what’s called the Concord Impoundments, two man-made pools of water that attract water fowl. The impoundments are part of what was once a large wet meadow where cows grazed and colonists cut hay, Herland said.
Once back on the river, there are meadows all along the southeast side of the river.
“The bottom line is for a river that’s so close to Boston, you have a remarkable stretch of undeveloped habitat teeming with wildlife,’’ Herland said.
The second trip travels north from Route 225 to the Billerica dam. The river becomes wide in this section, so it’s popular for boating, birding, and fishing, Field-Juma said. There is more development as boaters enter Billerica. The trip ends at the Middlesex Canal Museum and Visitor Center, which provides details about the early industrial history of the area.
In addition to serving as a recreational resource in the region, the Concord River is a public drinking water supply for Billerica, and receives waste water from six municipal treatment plans.
The map is available at the Concord Visitor Center and the South Bridge Boat House in Concord, or online at www.sudbury-assabet-concord.org.
Jennifer Fenn Lefferts can be reached at email@example.com.