Reflections on a River
Hawks and eagles, beavers, turtles, woodchucks, deer, and foxes live here, too, despite the array of pollutants—industrial and household waste, raw sewage, cars, tires, TVs, and furniture—that have continuously endangered the river for more than two centuries.
More public access points and trails are planned, and houses and condominiums along the river are coveted, many marketed as “riverside.” A rising number of visitors (last year more than 2,000) are taking trips on boats from the UMass Lowell Kayak Center at the Bellegarde Boathouse, which rents kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards through September 5.
“Much of the time it’s okay,” Soleil answers.
More than 600,000 valley residents drink Merrimack River water.
Many people don’t realize, he adds, that the Merrimack is the second-largest surface-based source of drinking water in New England after the Quabbin Reservoir.
Also of interest, at the Lowell National Historical Park, the National Park Service runs a 90-minute “Working the Water” boat tour of the Pawtucket Canal that formed part of the mill complex in Lowell.
Other small groups are also working to improve the river and protect dozens of endangered fish, birds, and other wildlife species across the watershed.
He takes passengers toward Lawrence, and explains the valley’s industrial history this way: Francis Cabot Lowell, A.B.
It’s the largest public boating program in the Merrimack River Valley, and serves about 2,200 kids a week in the summer.
Back in Lowell, Soleil agrees the river offers “a real connection to nature that people are not expecting.” At the end of their trip, the celebrating seniors pull up to the docks and pull out their kayaks.