Signups being accepted for popular Branch River Paddle

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Branch River Paddlers enjoy a bucolic kayak or canoe outing during a recent paddle. (Kate Wilcox photo)

Moose Mountains Regional Greenways and Branch Hill Farm/Carl Siemon Family Charitable Trust are teaming up once again to offer canoe and kayak enthusiasts the opportunity to enjoy a paddle of the pristine Branch River in Milton Mills. This 4-mile paddle along the scenic and winding Branch River will take place from 10 am to 2 pm on Saturday, May 25. Participants and their boats will be transported back from the upper end of Milton Three Ponds to the launch site for a complimentary picnic lunch.

Colin Lawson and Joel DeStasio of Trout Unlimited will be guest presenters. Lawson has a Masters degree in Environmental Science and is the Project Coordinator for TU's New England Culvert Project, the purpose of which is to restore Eastern brook trout habitat in key New England watersheds, where currently degraded or poorly engineered road stream crossings constitute impassable barriers to trout. DeStasio has a B.S. in Environmental Science and serves as Habitat Restoration Field Manager.

At the Paddle, Lawson will talk about fish habitats and the process of reconnecting streams so fish can access upstream cold waters and places to spawn. He'll also address the vulnerability of undersized dams and culverts during so-called '100-year' storms and their potentially devastating consequences. DeStasio will discuss the goals and process of restoring stream habitats for freshwater fish and describe some recently completed restoration projects in New England.

MMRG Board member Art Slocum is one of many Branch River Paddle devotees. Slocum explains, "My wife and I have only missed one Branch River Paddle in the last ten years because we love paddling through the quiet woods in springtime." Birdwatchers are also keen on this event; the lush wetland area near the confluence of the Branch and Salmon Falls Rivers is a prime birdwatching spot for riparian species. Paddlers are encouraged to bring binoculars to enjoy possible sightings of kingfishers, yellow warblers, Baltimore orioles, osprey and more.

Paddlers should bring their own kayaks or canoes and wear US Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices. Children should be 12 years or older and accompanied by an adult. This event is extremely popular and spaces are limited, so early registration is advised. All reservations must be made by the morning of Thursday, May 23; contact MMRG Education Coordinator Kari Lygren at 603-978-7125 or with your name, phone number, and the number of people who will attend. A $15 per person donation at the event is suggested. There is no rain date and participants are requested to leave pets at home.

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