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Some 40 canoes, kayaks take part in this year's Branch River paddle

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A young man finds a way to cool off during this year's Branch River Paddle held Memorial Day Weekend. (Amy Gardner.photo)

MILTON MILLS - Some forty paddlers turned out late last month for Moose Mountain Regional Greenway's popular Branch River Paddle.

The springtime tradition begins in Milton Mills near the intersection of Applebee Road and Route 125.

Along the river, which flows into Milton Three Ponds, kayakers and canoeists enjoyed sightings of wildlife under a warm sun.

The Branch River Paddle is offered annually by MMRG and the Branch Hill Farm/Carl Siemon Family Charitable Trust.

Colin Lawson and Joel DeStasio of Trout Unlimited were guest presenters. The two work to restore Eastern brook trout habitat in key New England watersheds and were a wealth of information about stream ecology.

Lawson pointed out that while all the fish species seen that day were warm water species (bass, sunfish, shiners, and fallfish, including pebble nests), the significant amount of undeveloped and protected landscape along the Branch River means that there is likely cold groundwater influence on the river. In forested land, where rain water can sink slowly into the soil rather than running off the surface, the water cools and adds to the groundwater resource. He also talked about how healthy river systems require unimpeded flow and the importance of installing the correct size infrastructure, such as culverts, under roads or other stream crossings.

DeStasio called attention to large-wood structures present at different locations along the river, which resulted from natural processes of trees falling and jamming as they floated downstream, so that they are now secure during high flows. He explained the habitat benefits for fish of such instream wood, including refuge from predators, the development of deep scour pools, and relief from higher velocity flows.

Paddlers were delighted to spot a mother mallard duck and her many fuzzy-looking chicks in the reeds at the edge of the stream and bright yellow marsh marigolds on the river banks. One father and son team energetically scooped up an old tire and other trash into their canoe, greatly appreciated by those who live along the Branch River. Another young man couldn't resist trying out a rope swing hanging over the water.

After the Paddle, local Governor's Inn owner and paddling enthusiast Herman Ejarque expressed his pleasure. "We really enjoyed the Paddle! A very well planned and organized event. The Branch River is beautiful and it was a fun day. Count us in next year!"

MMRG, a non-profit land trust, works to conserve and connect important water resources, farm and forest lands, wildlife habitats, and recreational land in Brookfield, Farmington, Middleton, Milton, New Durham, Wakefield, and Wolfeboro. Throughout the year, MMRG offers many educational opportunities to inform all ages about the benefits of our region's natural resources; see www.mmrg.info. MMRG thanks business sponsor of this event, M&M Boat Storage of Sanbornville.

Branch Hill Farm/CSFCT is a private operating foundation whose mission is to conserve land, produce quality timber products, and educate people about sound forestry practices and conservation. For more information, visit www.branchhillfarm.org.

Virginia Long is the Public Relations Coordinator for MMRG

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