REI Grant to Support Mill River Project


As trail maintainers, water is often enemy # 1. Most of the work we do is to try to control the flow of water so it gets off the trail, or to install structures where water has collected and turned the trail into a mud pit. It does create some fun working conditions, as seen in the picture to the right (I swear, there's a boot in there somewhere). A day of rain may seem harmless, but the prevailing force of water + gravity will erode a trail, flood drainages, undercut structures, and in the case of my hike in May, make a trail completely and utterly impassable.

Georgetown-Rowley State Forest in, you guessed it, Georgetown and Rowley, MA, is over 1,000 acres of protected forest offering hiking, horseback riding, snowshoeing, cross country skiing, hunting, mountain biking, and more. I had heard of the infamous Mill River Crossing in Georgetown-Rowley State Forest for months before I experienced it myself. Since 2013, beaver activity has seasonally flooded area so badly that an alternate route through Cleveland Farm State Forest has been created to bypass the area.


Stories of wet boots and promises of an "Open Ford" did not discourage me. I was scouting a hike for an event in Rowley and decided to check out how bad it really was. My hope was to lead a loop hike incorporating the alternate route. I was warned to save the river crossing for the end, that way if I "went in" I would at least be close to my car. I set out on the alternate loop and linked up with Georgetown-Rowley State Forest for a pleasant walk in the woods. As I neared the end I started to wonder just how bad this "Open Ford" would be, and as I turned a corner I got my answer....

Can you spot the white blaze?
...kind of. The trail was flooded knee-deep in all directions for about 200 feet. I was determined to get through without getting totally soaked and somehow managed to do so by hopping from island to island. I thought that must be the worst of it, but then I realized that didn't really seem like a river crossing. I was right. The actual river crossing was about 3 feet of fast moving water about 8 feet wide. I gave myself a pep talk, conjured all of my best tight-rope walking skills, and made it down a wet, slippery log before hopping over to the beaver dam and scrambling over to the other bank. 

You're probably thinking, 'sounds like it needs a bridge', and I'm happy to say it is getting one! A grant from Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) in Boston will support this project with money to fund a bridge, steps on a steep, eroded adjacent slope, and an 8-car designated parking area at the trailhead. This bridge will create a safe crossing so hikers don't have to also be Olympic long jumpers to get across the river. It will also make the trailhead, which is currently undesignated, open and inviting to all users. Until that happens, users are encouraged to take the alternate route. 

For more information, maps, and turn-by-turn trail directions, check out: www.baycircuit.org 

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