This article From Dedham to Dedham in a Canoe was published by Iver Johnson Sporting Goods Company in June of 1908. The author was not identified. It has been converted to HTML and had some illustrations added by Benson Gray.

American Sports
Vol. 1                           JUNE, 1908                            No. 2
Copyright, 1908, by Iver Johnson Sporting Goods Co.
By way of Charles River, the Harbor and Neponset River

It just struck nine one sunny Saturday morning when we dipped our paddles from the Dedham boathouse on our rather unique trip from "home to home," via Charles and Neponset Rivers with a short run on the bay.

Dick and I were in excellent spirits, and six miles below at Echo Bridge made our first carry - an easy one, through the State Reservation. The fall at this point is the highest and has the largest volume of water pouring over of any on the entire trip, and should one lose control of his canoe here there would be nothing but splinters in the rapids below to tell the tale of disaster.

The water from the bridge was fascinating to watch, but we could not loiter, and a few hundred yards farther down, at Newton Upper Falls, is another carry, a trifle longer than the first, but easy enough for us both. About a dozen people of all ages were busily fishing just below the falls but we failed to discover any signs of a bite after watching them for several minutes.

A distance of a mile and a half on to Newton Lower Falls the current is quite a little swifter than above Echo Bridge. This is due probably to a succession of three or four falls, of various sizes, extending around a bend in the river. This carry is about half a mile and has to be made through the center of the little town, but there are a number of bright boys always on hand, with two-wheeled carts planned for this purpose, and they take full charge for a quarter a canoe. We did not begrudge the quarter, for the roads were dusty and the sun hot.

The easy paddle of two and a half miles from Newton Lower Falls to Riverside is always enjoyable, and as we shot up by the side of the boathouse it just struck twelve and the river was simply covered with canoes.

Up to this time we had been traveling in sleeveless jerseys, but this style of costume does not seem to be popular at Riverside; the men all appearing in stiff collars and the ladies in their prettiest dresses-so different from Dedham, where every one goes out to have a good time and not to show their good clothes-so we stopped at one of the boathouses and put on some fine togs.

The river all the way down to Riverside, and in fact as far as Waltham is very pretty, but below Waltham it is much less attractive.

We did not stop at Riverside long enough to pay for "getting into line" on clothes, especially as it gradually grew warmer, and when we stopped for luncheon we again resorted to our jerseys and were comfortable.

The carry at Waltham is simple enough, but our presence seemed to disturb the small boys of the neighborhood. They left their ball game and as we shoved off they took a little target practice, using us for the target. However, the range was long and the current swift, and we soon passed under the next bridge and out of danger. I do not know why it is, but a canoe seems to be an offense to a small boy and stirs up every bit of opposition and "cussedness " in his nature.

The next dam was a new experience. It was about three or four feet high with a slanting apron. On either side of the river and enclosing the mill yard was a four-foot stone wall, with a two-rail fence at the top. We had the choice of two ways: to lift the canoe over the stone wall and fence or let it slide over the dam, and tow it about three hundred yards down stream, under a bridge and by the mill yard, as we traveled along the top of the wall. We chose the latter way. After unloading the canoe - this, by the way, was the first time we had been obliged to unload, - we let it slide over, and three-quarters of an hour later were once more on our way, but not in the pleasantest frame of mind, as we mourned over a number of long scratches on the brand new varnish of the canoe and it had about half filled with water.

At Watertown we made another fairly easy carry, the only bad feature was that we were obliged to carry the canoe on our shoulders down an incline stone wall about two feet wide extending down one side of the dam. The wind had blown up considerably by this time, and just as we reached the top of the wall it caught up one of our smaller cushions and landed it in the water below. We accomplished a rescue after a time but the cushion was of little value during the rest of the day's trip.

A mile below we made our seventh carry, our last and easiest one of the day, then continued on our way to the sea through a decidedly uninteresting country.

We soon realized we were in tidewater, now. The tide was coming in and the wind with it, making anything but easy paddling. The water was very shallow and we struck our paddles continually on the rocky bottom of the river. At a point about half a mile above the Watertown Arsenal the water shoaled very rapidly, leaving us high and dry in the middle of the river. There was only one thing to do, to take off our shoes and stockings and lighten the canoe for a distance of about two hundred yards. The water was like ice. It makes me shiver to think of it yet. We were glad enough to get back into the boat again and warmed up once more.

It was from six to seven miles from here to the Union Boat Club where we were to put up for the night, and against the wind and tide it seemed twice as far. It was a temptation to stop at the Harvard boathouses as we passed for about this time we were homesick and lonesome, a mite discouraged, too, and we felt pretty blue as we looked into the night and dipped our paddles and pushed ahead on what seemed then an endless journey. But it came to an end as all things will, and as we passed under Harvard Bridge and saw before us the brilliantly lighted dome of the State House, with the boathouse lights shining out below, and realized that we were back once more in "God's Country," the last few dreary miles faded away in the distance and were forgotten, the strokes of our paddles seemed to grow stronger and in a very few minutes we glided up to the float, and our first day's trip was ended.

Sunday morning found us on our way once more, congratulating ourselves on having another perfect day. What appeared to us a "gentle" south wind was blowing and we looked forward to a delightful trip across Boston Harbor.

We had planned to reach the Neponset River at high tide, but our plans went wrong from the very start. Perhaps because we were traveling on Sunday when we should have been at church. Who knows? In the first place we overslept.

From the boathouse to the mouth of the Charles River, a distance of little more than a mile, we passed under a succession of drawbridges. At the second we were obliged to wait for a tow boat and three heavily loaded barges to pass, the draw being the only place where we could get through. On reaching the next bridge we found that even the draw was down so near the water that it was impossible to get under. We did not relish the idea of carrying the canoe over the bridge and it seemed so foolish. So we waited awhile in hopes that the draw would be opened for our friends of the towboat and that we might get an opportunity to slip through behind them. But no: every one seemed to settle down as if for a good long wait. We gave it up after a time and paddled along the side of the bridge in search of an opening. Finally, at the other side of the river fully a quarter of a mile away, we found a very small opening, which by getting into the bottom of the canoe we were able to squeeze through. Under the bridge there was more room, not so much, however, but what we were glad enough to get out into daylight once more.

After tacking back and forth between the bridges to find openings large enough to admit even our small craft, we passed under the last bridge beyond the Charlestown Navy Yard, and heading to the southward started on our journey across the harbor.

We were not long in discovering that our "gentle south wind" was not gentle at all but a very fully developed wind, which was destined to keep us busy for a much longer time than we had dreamed. Passing out beyond the shelter of the piers we commenced to feel its force, and once in a while the spray from some wave larger than the rest would dash over us, reminding us to keep the boat steady and our eyes open.

The wharves all along the South Boston shore were lined with fishermen, though what they were catching was a puzzle. We hailed one man who was out fishing from a boat and asked him what luck he was having. We did not get much satisfaction; his only answer being an unintelligible growl, which might have been taken to mean almost anything.

As we passed under the pier which connects Castle Island with the mainland and drew in towards City Point, we could hear the church bells ringing, calling the people to worship.

We landed at the Point to stretch our legs a bit, and walking out on to the pier looked across towards Dorchester Bay and the mouth of the Neponset. The sight which met our gaze was very different from the stretch of water over which we had just passed and which we had imagined was somewhat rough. The whole bay was covered with whitecaps and the small fleet of yachts, moored in front of the clubhouses, were pitching about in a manner which showed plainly that we might expect anything but an easy time on the two and a half miles between us and the Neponset. River.

(To be continued next issue.)

[Note: If anyone has a copy of the next issue then please let me know, I would love to find out how the rest of the trip went and publish it here.]

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