(Note – I wrote this in July of 2010)
“Smooth as a mill pond.” This is such an apt phrase and one of the things that makes kayaking on Powder Mill Pond so enjoyable. No matter how windy there is never more than just a ripple on the pond. With an average depth of 3 feet it is hard for even chop to develop the way it does on deeper lakes.
Powder Mill Pond is a small (419 acre) lake that straddles the line between Greenfield and Bennington, NH. There are 2 main sections divided by a very low railroad bridge crossing a narrow choke point. The main section is well over a mile long and has large expanses of open shallow water. There are several bays and inlets. The other section, which ends at the dam, is a little less than a mile and is dominated by a large island. Since the highway, Rt. 202, comes down close to the water in this second smaller section, I often just paddle a short way into it, perhaps looping around the island.
Powder mill Pond sits at the foot of Crotched Mountain. Just a little farther away, but looming much larger is the tail end of the Wapack range. Pack Monadnock dominates these blue peaks off to the southeast. Looking southwest Mount Monadnock itself often comes into view. Despite the fact that there are several houses on the lake, maybe a half a dozen on the larger section, I think this Monadnock region scenery is very pretty making this one of my favorite kayaking spots within easy commuting distance.
On the negative side, the shallow warm water tends to be very tannic making it the color of a very strong tea. It’s difficult to see more than 2 or 3 feet into the water. As a contrast, another 10 minute drive would bring me to Willard Pond which, although smaller, is much deeper and colder. Willard’s Pond is so clear that on a calm day it can seem like you are kayaking in the air. Unfortunately calm days are few and far between – Willard’s Pond may be very clear but is often also very choppy.
Yesterday, July 23, 2010, I went out for a short paddle on Powder Mill Pond. The boat launch was empty – power boating is allowed but, because of the shallow water, the boats always go slow and careful – so I knew I’d have the lake pretty much to myself.
As I put the kayak in I started to regret leaving the camera behind. The day was very pretty and there was little wind. Just around the corner from the boat launch the covered bridge was casting a clear reflection on the water. Rarely is the surface as mirror-like.
Just as I was leaving the channel and entering the lake proper I noticed an unusual log, only it was moving towards me. And that it had eyes. It went under just a few feet from the boat and I could make out the shell of the snapping turtle as I passed by. That monster must have been 2 foot long, possibly more. I’ve seen some other large turtles in this lake, but I think this was the biggest.
I tried to keep aware as I paddled, first going straight down the center and then going towards shore for a closer look. Although there are often quite a few large water birds, such as blue herons, the shoreline was empty.
Turning back at the railroad bridge I decided to enter one of the larger bays. Near the entrance to the bay there was a stump a few feet off the shore that had a weird texture. I had no clue what it could be and made a decision to investigate on my way back out. Something large and tan became visible on the far shore of the bay. As I got closer I realized it was a buck wading in the water. One side of the bay is almost an island being separated from land by a marsh peninsula. The buck was heading towards this island like feature. I let the boat drift in close and he seemed not to notice me. Once to the island, less than 25 yards away, he slow melted into the woods. Why did I leave my camera at home!?
After a paddle around the bay it was time to check out the weird stump. Only, it wasn’t a stump, it was a large feathered object. It wasn’t a single object but several all packed in together on a rock about a dozen feet off of the shore. The objects were ducklings. Not baby yellow ducklings like I saw in the spring but little grey and tan ducks all cuddled up together. As I coasted by a few yards off one took its head out of the pile and looked at me. Not seeming to care he looked around then stuffed his head back into the pile. I couldn’t tell how many were there but guess it was about 4. I didn’t see any adult ducks the whole time I was out. I hope the little ones are alright. I know a large snapping turtle can lunch on a little duckling but I’m not sure about a full grown duck. Then again, a huge 75 lb monster… I tried not to think about it and paddled on my way.
As I was heading towards the channel and thus to the parking lot I saw another tan object on the side of the lake. This one was a doe and she was eating water plants just off the shore. I watched her for a few minutes before she, unfortunately, saw me. She didn’t startle and run but it was only a matter of seconds before she slowly dissolved into the woods.
This wasn’t the most exciting paddle of my life but was fun – a great way to start the day and the weekend. As I was putting the kayak on the car I went over the whole paddle in my mind. I got as close to nature as I ever do on a hike yet was able to cover more ground quicker. I was totally satisfied. Well almost – I already started thinking about my next trip out. I’m not sure if the next paddle will be on Powder mill Pond but I do know I will have my camera.