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Old canals and new sights

After yesterday's attempt at finding a new trail, we thought we'd stick with what we know and love today, and use another local, but short-distance, Rail Trail. I had seen a sign for the Canalside Rail Trail on the way back from Vermont yesterday, so that's where we headed.

This trail is like the Ashuwillticook in that it is managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, so all the rules I learned about the hard way on the previous trail still held true here: No water, no trash cans. I'm getting good at this now, so instead of sticky gels that have sticky wrappers when empty, I brought protein bars with me so my inner pocket mess was held to a minimum.

Parking at the trailhead lot in Turner's Falls was super easy, and the signs along the way were well-placed and accurate. The lot is also used for the Great Falls Discovery Center across Avenue A (free admission), and the Turners Falls Fishway (also free admission) when it is open during anadromous fish spawning season in the spring. During that season, the Fishway allows visitors to view American shad, sea lamprey, Atlantic salmon, and other fish make their way up and over the hydroelectric dam via a series of ladder steps. Here's a picture that shows the water after it is forced through the sloughs of the hydroelectric turbines.

Turners Falls Dam

The trail itself, as you would expect by its name, follows the canal from the dam along a railroad bed, passes by old mill buildings in various states of disrepair, and crosses the Connecticut River over into Deerfield, Massachusetts. We did two loops of the flat and easy 3.7 mile-long trail, where we saw a number of swallows, ducks, cormorants, and other birds. The real gem of the trail other than the wildlife is the iron truss bridge with its wooden flooring and excellent views of both the Connecticut and the Deerfield Rivers.

Iron truss bridge with wooden floor
Iron truss bridge

On our last river crossing, we met another couple who had biked from Sunderland, MA along the river via a combination of roads and bike trails. They were using the trail's bridge to get back across the Connecticut to continue on their way back home. They gave us newcomers some pointers about which roads are friendly to cyclists in the area, and we hope to experiment with their suggestions soon.

It was another beautiful day for cycling in Western Massachusetts! The scenery, although not as stunning as on other trails, provided many conversation starters about the rise and fall of mill towns, industry, hydroelectric power, and changing times. We hope to return in autumn to see the amazing canvas of foliage that will surround the trail, and again in the spring for the fish migration.

Canalside Rail Trail

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