2023 “Paddle With A Purpose” Schedule

Paddlers are needed to help remove invasive water chestnut (Trapa natans) from the Connecticut River and its tributaries this spring and summer. It’s a fun, social, and very rewarding form of outdoor recreation.

Mike Thomas gives a thumbs up during a “paddle with a purpose” work party in the Floating Meadows, a spectacular freshwater tidal marshland between Middletown and Cromwell.

Let us know you plan to participate in any of the events below or receive updates on future paddles at other locations by sending your name and email address here to let us know you are a paddler. Also, let us know if you wish to borrow a kayak from the Connecticut River Conservancy.  Registration with CRC is required to reserve a kayak. To receive schedule updates, last-minute weather-related changes, and other environmental news, please subscribe to the Jonah Center Newsletter.

Below are dates and times for work parties in Middletown’s Floating Meadows, launching from 185 Johnson Street. (Note: more paddlers will be needed for the later dates listed, as plants emerge over time.) Some paddlers may opt to be out on the water for 2 hours or slightly more, but that is a long time for most people to sit in a kayak. There are few or no places to get out and stretch in this area since it is a marshland.  Paddlers should return to the launch site whenever they wish.  1 to 1.5 hours on the water is a good amount of time for most people.

Saturday, June 3, 9-11:30 a.m.  (Low tide, work party with CRC staff)

Saturday, June 10, 9-11:30 a.m. (High tide, major work party)

Saturday, June 17 9-11:30 a.m. (Low tide, work party with CRC staff)

Saturday, June 24, 9-11:30 a.m. (High tide, major work party)

Saturday, June 31, 9-11:30 a.m. (Low tide, work party with CRC staff)

Saturday, July 8, 9-11:30 a.m. (High tide, major work party)

Pre-registration for any of these events is requested at the CRC website here, but to be sure you get any changes of plans, make sure you are on the Jonah Center newsletter/paddler list by sending us a message here.

Note: On Saturdays with “low tide” in the morning, launching may be muddier and the water may not look as clean. But we encourage paddlers to help on “low tide” events because we need to remove as many plants as possible before mid-July.

Paddle With A Purpose work parties will be scheduled at other locations once initial survey work has taken place to determine where plants are emerging. Subscribe to the Jonah Center newsletter to receive special paddle updates as plans are made.

Work parties organized elsewhere in Connecticut and Massachusetts by the Connecticut River Conservancy can be viewed here.

Background On Invasive Plants in the Connecticut River.

Below is a summary of the “current conditions” involving 2 invasive plants in the Connecticut River and why we will need more paddlers this coming season. Use the “contact” tab to let us know if you can help.

A single floret of Trapa natans in early summer. By mid-July, a single plant can grow 10 or more florets producing 60 seeds.

Over the years, the Connecticut River has been affected by numerous invasive plants, but two of them are especially harmful and prolific. Water chestnut (Trapa natans) was brought to Massachusetts in the late nineteenth century and now has become common in ponds, lakes, and rivers in the northeast and mid-Atlantic regions. It multiplies quickly to form large, thick mats that cut off sunlight and oxygen needed by native plants and animals, including fish, and birds that feed on fish. The mats can also obstruct navigation by motorboats, canoes, and kayaks.

A work party pulls plants from a dense patch in Pecausett Pond in Portland. It’s a gratifying and fun social activity in the great outdoors.

Fortunately, Trapa natans is an annual plant, so it can be controlled by hand-pulling if action is taken early enough in the season—that is, before seeds form and drop. Without prompt action, however, the mats will expand to cover large areas of the river surface. At that point, the best remedy is to deploy mechanical harvesters, operated by professional workers, at considerable cost.

Hydrilla verticillata

The other invasive aquatic plant, Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata) has shown up more recently in the form of a stubborn variety that appears to be unique to the Connecticut River. Since Hydrilla is a perennial, and because it multiplies by fragmentation, motorboat propellers have accelerated its proliferation. Hydrilla cannot be controlled by hand-pulling, and attempting mechanical removal is not only impractical but counterproductive due to fragmentation. That leaves herbicide treatment as the only option. The U.S, Army Corps of Engineers is undertaking a research program on this plant and possible methods to control it.  An excellent video on the Hydrilla problem in the Connecticut  River may be viewed here.

In the summer of 2023, the Jonah Center will further expand its work to remove Trapa natans from the Connecticut River and tributaries. Prior to 2022, the Jonah Center’s water chestnut work was focused primarily in the Floating Meadows—the 1000-acre freshwater tidal marshland between Cromwell and Middletown where the Mattabesset and Coginchaug Rivers converge. In the summer of 2022, the Jonah Center’s founder and Executive Director, John Hall, began coordinating work parties along the main stem of the river between Hartford and Essex as an emergency measure. The emergency was the release of a 7-acre mat of Trapa natans –along with its huge but unknown number of mature seeds—from Hartford’s North Meadows flood storage pond in August 2021. This disaster led to widespread seed germination downriver from Hartford to Essex. The Lower Connecticut River Land Trust recognized John Hall’s and the Jonah Center volunteers’ ambitious efforts to mitigate the damage by awarding them the Melvin Woody Lower Connecticut River Conservation Award in February 2023.

As the summer of 2023 approaches, the Jonah Center is equipped with 2 flat-bottomed utility boats, known as Jon boats (1 motorized and 1 non-motorized). A team of certified motorboat operators and a team of rowers are organized to support a still more robust effort to save the river and its coves from invasive water chestnut. Portland Boat Works owner Paul Cusson has been very helpful and generous in providing free boat storage, docking, and use of the boat launch ramp for the Jonah Center’s work in this area.

What we need now are volunteers—canoe and kayak paddlers— to join our “paddle with a purpose” work parties starting on May 27. These will continue every Saturday until late July in partnership with the Connecticut River Conservancy. (Times will vary according to tides. Contact the Jonah Center to get schedules and to volunteer.) Work parties in the Floating Meadows will launch at 185 Johnson Street in Middletown’s North End. Smaller work parties, some on mid-week mornings or evenings, will launch from Portland Boat Works, the Town Landing in Middle Haddam, Haddam Meadows State Park, or the south end of River Road in Cromwell.

Paddlers are also needed by the Connecticut River Conservancy to address Trapa natans in Glastonbury, Wethersfield, East Hartford, and Hartford. An especially large and stubborn infestation emerges every year in Keeney Cove in Glastonbury. Paddlers who live farther downriver, such as in East Haddam, Hadlyme, Deep River, and Lyme, may join work parties led by Friends of Whalebone Cove near the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry and in Selden Cove (opposite Deep River).