Moose Mountains Regional Greenways and Branch Hill Farm/Carl Siemon Family Charitable Trust recently held the annual Branch River Paddle on the scenic Branch River, in Milton Mills NH. Participants enjoyed a peaceful, 4-mile long paddle route during a beautiful spring day. While temperatures were hot, clouds overhead made the paddle down the river comfortable as a caravan of canoes and kayaks navigated the twists and turns of the upper river.

It felt really special to host the paddle this year,” explained Jared Kane, Executive Director of Branch Hill Farm. “Many see this event as an unofficial kick off to the summer season and the fact we were unable to host last year was disappointing to many, but also necessary.  We really could not have asked for a better day, and I am already looking forward to next year!”

The group spotted and heard abundant wildlife along the river as they paddled. Mallards and merganser ducks meandered through the water, and our group identified a number of songbirds we could hear calling through the trees – yellow warblers, vireos, and catbirds, among others. Where the river flows in North East Pond, we even saw an immature loon while passing by. 

Our special guest this year was Katy Lewis, Research Manager with the Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany, NH.  Paddlers stopped at a sandbar while Katy explained her research at Tin Mountain focusing on stream restoration. She told participants about the current challenges impacting native brook trout habitat. One technique to restore habitat, she said, includes felling trees into streams – an important strategy that offers hiding places for fish and slows water current. 

As the paddle came to an end, we loaded all paddleboats back onto a trailer and paddlers walked peaceful trails through the Branch Hill Farm property back to the launch point. The group enjoyed additional opportunities to explore the surrounding wildlife. We stopped for a picnic lunch along the trail, a welcome spread after a day of activity. Although the hike back was added this year as a COVID precaution to reduce carpooling, it was so well received that it will likely be kept in future years. 

The walk back to the start included walking past a cluster of pink lady slippers, a wonderful end to a great day on the water and walking through the woods,” said paddler Peter Goodwin.

Thank you to all of those who came out to join the paddle and hike, to Branch Hill Farm for co-hosting the event, and to Katy Lewis for her excellent and educational talk. We are excited to host the paddle again next year and look forward to additional summer events.