The Mighty Quinebaug

One camp day trip we took was a canoe trip down the mighty Quinebaug river, right next to the camp. That year had been very dry, and the mighty Quinebaug actually resembled more of a trickle. I actually think the year may have been 1955, the year of the flood, and that one reason for the flood was that the earlier part of the summer had been quite dry, and the ground was baked and parched. As a result, when the heavy rains came, they were unable to soak in to the earth, and just poured directly into the rivers.

During the '55 flood, the Quinebaug would swell so much that it would take out the entire camp dump and bestow it on some lucky people further downstream. In fact, in 1938, the Quinebaug was implicated in even more serious flooding (although not during a camp session). But the year of this particular canoe trip, it barely qualified as a river at all.

As a result, the going was rather rough. It was hard to get the paddles in deeply enough to work, and we spent a lot of time poling along the bottom. On occasion, we actually had to get out and wade, dragging the canoes, which would hit bottom with our weight in them.

One enterprising camper, and I'm afraid to say I forget who, was too lazy to paddle. He spent much of the time along the edge of the river, where he found he was able to pull himself along by tugging on low-hanging branches that protruded over the water. This worked pretty well, and I was considering trying it myself, until one of the branches he grabbed proved to have an enormous black snake sitting coiled on it, basking in the sun. When the branch was shaken, the snake, probably three to four feet long (about 1m to 1.2m), dropped smack into the center of the canoe.

Now, we had all received a great deal of canoe training, of course, and were able to swamp a canoe, then right it and bail it, and all sorts of other neat tricks. But although we had received no specific training in rapid canoe exits, the occupant of that canoe managed to accomplish a total egress in about a tenth of a second, abandoning it to the snake.

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