2017 Branch River Paddle photos thanks to Kate Wilcox.

Kayakers and canoeists found exceptionally high and fast-moving water in the Branch River for the annual paddle event presented by MMRG and Branch Hill Farm/Carl Siemon Family Charitable Trust (BHF/CSFCT). Approximately fifty participants made the bumpy but exciting 4-1/2 mile trip down the Branch River to the upper end of Milton Three Ponds this year, where they were transported back to the launch site in Milton for a picnic lunch prepared by Chef Gracie of Sheehan Gardens.

Before they headed out onto the river, MMRG Education Coordinator Kari Lygren spoke to the paddlers about boating safety as well as about MMRG’s mission to conserve lands and educate the public about the value of our natural resources. Consulting forester Charlie Moreno challenged paddlers to pay attention to the abundant wildlife along the stream banks, and in particular to watch and listen for birds, which are always present in great variety and entertaining with their vibrant colors and song. At the end of the trip, Charlie collected a list of thirty bird species identified by participants, including a Barred owl that was heard hooting from the woods for the second paddle year in a row.

Also at the introduction, guest Wayne Sylvester of Three Ponds Protective Association (TPPA) mentioned the importance of the riparian (stream-side) zones along the two rivers that feed into the Three Ponds, the Branch and Salmon Falls, for ensuring the quality of the downstream lake water. Forested riparian areas, like those along the Paddle route, help maintain pristine water by preventing erosion of stream banks and by filtering runoff water before it drains into the river. In addition to supporting best land use practices through monitoring for soil erosion and offering small grants for amelioration work, TPPA samples and analyzes lake water quality, performs courtesy boat inspections to monitor for invasive species that can infiltrate a lake, and is building an emergency fund to deal with a potential invasive species outbreak such as the European naiad recently discovered in Northeast Pond.

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. MMRG would like to thank the business co-sponsors of the Branch River Paddle: M&M Boat Storage, the Land Bank of Wolfeboro-Tuftonboro, and Access Sports Medicine of Rochester.