River Park in Mansfield, CT


River Park is a nice boat launch out on to the Willimantic River, just above Eagleville Dam. In fact, on one of my previous visits to Eagleville Dam I even paddled up to just below River Park. I’ve also learned this launch is part of the Willimantic River Water Trail, a 21-mile National Recreation Trail. It’s a nice spot to go.

When I launched from River Park the water level was low — very low. It’s worth checking the real-time stream gauge to know what to expect. The water level was at about 2.0 feet. I scraped the bottom at a few spots and had to paddle hard to slide through at a section near the mouth to Eagleville Dam. When the water is that low the launch area is not as nice — the water level is below the concrete launch and into the mud, which can be a little treacherous…

I went kayaking this afternoon, launching onto the Willimantic River at River Park and paddling down to Eagleville Dam (and back). It was a great trip and I think Patrick would have enjoyed going with me: I saw many many fish (shallow water made it easy to see), turtles, ducks, a heron, and swans. The water level was about 2-3 feet lower than normal so I could also see many other things on the riverbed: at least a dozen tires, a car door, storm grates, and plenty of interesting rock formations.

At the end of my trip I pulled back into the River Park boat launch. As I said, the water level was low. So low, in fact, that the boat launch was completely out of the water and I was actually launching/landing at the muddy riverbed. No, this wasn’t a sandy or rocky area, but mud. Mucky, smelly, squishy mud.

To get out of the kayak I pulled my leg out of the cockpit and stepped into the mud. I began to put a little weight on it so I could stand and get out of the kayak. However, as soon as I did that I sunk into the muck, and it continued to suck me in. Oh yes, for those that might not know, this is the kind of mud that can actually pull you in, which also means it rips your typical kayaker from their kayak — causing a capsize and a thorough coating of mud that can rival any Tough Mudder participant (meaning the mud leaks everywhere including those unmentionable places). I finally pulled myself out (and managed to keep my shoes on, which took a bit of effort) then headed back into the water at a different spot to try to wash some of the mud off. Not how I intended to end my trip, but, hey, at least I didn’t lose my phone (it was in a drycase).

I got home and rinsed my clothes out. It was easy to rinse the dirt out of the t-shirt because the mud that attacked my torso was covering my (new and no-longer-white) life jacket. Rinsing my shorts out proved a challenge until I literally pulled handfuls of mud out of the pockets. Perhaps TMI, but that heavy layer of mud in my underwear would certainly explain the discomfort I felt while driving home. But, all clean now! Another memorable trip.

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