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Trip Reports

Happenings on the Canal: Violettes down to Great ...
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 This morning Dan and I met at Violettes Lock to ride the two-mile length of the Pennyfield Level to ascertain if raising the level in it were simply a question of opening the wickets in the intake lock at Violettes and closing those in Pennyfield Lock and its nearby waste weir. Unfortunately, it won't be so easy. First - proof of concept of my "nutcracker" wicket-opener worked out just fine - we were able to let in plenty of water. We stopped.  (My fellow "lab rat" did not see this!)

    In practice we would open the wicket, paddle the GWC or Seneca Breaks run, return up the newly filled Canal from MP 21, and close it. This part of the Canal is free of debris, but now terribly low.  

   But arriving at Pennyfield Lock, we met a couple of NHP parkies, one of whom was Doug Palmer, whom I know from several "Teams" encounters and many telephone calls and emails - and is our main counterpart in the Park, as he's been working our Palisades section of Canal - everything down from Rileys Lock for around 25 years. He came over the lock gate to our side and showed us the latest disaster - the single wicket in the waste weir has been bent out (toward the Canal) by about 9 inches so it will not hold water.  Said wicket is a 2x3 foot flat iron plate at the end of a vertical 1.5 inch diameter iron rod (similar to the wicket at Violettes Lock with which we'd just been experimenting.) Not likely to be fixed, Doug allowed, until mid-June.. 

   We decided to ebike on down to Great Falls to see the new cross-Canal causeway that Doug told us of. At Swains Lock, we found the upper lock gate, which had clearly been on its last legs at last sighting, to have been pulled, with no replacement yet.  Why the NHP insists on putting double locks on lock chambers when no canal barges are plying up and down is one of life's minor mysteries. [for recent examples, see Pennyfield 22, and Locks 19, 18, 17.]  The water in Great Falls Tavern Level 20 is very low, black, brackish, and foul. The NHP has dug nice kayak-width ditches through a couple of slender cross-canal deltas - over on the towpath-side. This is a good idea - and has been done with almost no outlay of funds - very unlike your typical government job.

   But then comes the pièce de résistance - a cracked-stone causeway across the Canal - about 400 yards upstream from Tavern Lock 20. It is at the level of the most upstream part of the Great Falls parking lot and has three small (2-foot-diameter) pipes under it for the water to flow. An employee described that the purpose was to carry a pipe that would suck slurry out of the Canal bottom so that they could put machinery into the Canal prism to dig it out for the canal boat. That pipe was in full evidence, lying along the towpath, pointed downstream, Black - 1 foot diameter - walls one inch thick. Unclear where the slurry will go. Then trucks will haul out the dried-up muck from the lowest part of level 20 and haul it away.

   At the GF Tavern I asked the resident park employee when the canal boat would start up - signifying the Canal would be filled. "Oh, like late June." Have you got the mules and the boat drivers lined up? No answer.  So maybe no boats, no water this season.  And the causeway will permanently stop boaters using Tavern Level 20 for the duration of the "Two-year Rehab." Doug, however, says because of the recent wet spell, it will be removed, only not until around July. Readers are requested to report on any changes in Tavern Level 20's navigability. This will again enable a delightful beginner loop back up to Swains, after having come down the river.

   Along the Canal were many very tame Canada geese - in pairs, and most with two to six yellow-brown goslings. Mallards also in pairs, and the ubiquitous Great Blues - always alone as they hunted minnows in the Canal. Two turtles - early in the season yet - the temperature was in the 50s.

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