A Friday night on the Connecticut River


The boys had been talking about this trip all week.  I had done some research on where to do river camping here in Connecticut and found that the state has several campgrounds that are accessible only by canoe or kayak.  Several weeks ago I checked the DEP website, got the address needed, and then wrote to them requesting a camping permit (of course enclosing the needed $15 to cover the permit).  A week later I had a permit waiting in the mail for Ceders Camp Area in Selden Neck State Park.

Papa walking in the woods at Selden Neck State Park

I called my dad and asked if he wanted to go camping with the boys this weekend.  He was actually in DC this past week, so the trip up wasn’t too far out of his way.   I picked him up on Friday afternoon, and we quickly packed up the car before the boys came home from school.

We tied the canoe to the roof and drove to the Hadlyme Ferry.  Of course I wasn’t sure how often the ferry ran, so we drove all the way around.  Next time I’ll just take the Ferry across.  $3 for the car and it runs about every 15 minutes (we took it home).  We unloaded in the parking lot next to the ferry and loaded up the canoe.  It was nearly 5pm by the time we were on the river.

We paddled down the river for maybe 20 or 30 minutes and arrived at our campsite (I had to pick a site near the put-in – the boys don’t get out of school until 3pm and with a 9am transition to their mother’s house on Sunday morning, a Saturday night camping trip was out of the question).

We had a great night camping.  Both Will and Ben took some time when we got there to go swimming in the cold water, then set up their tents (with help).  We found firewood (we had to hike a bit to get it), made a fire, and cooked dinner.  Ben was pretty tired; he had stayed up until almost 10pm the night before.  After dinner, as we were getting the s’mores ready, Ben decided to go lay down in his tent.  I asked him, “are you going to bed?” He replied, “No, I’m just taking a nap.”  I explained that if you take a nap at night and wake up the next morning, then it counts as going to bed.  But either way, I let him take his nap.  He slept until the morning.

Will followed not too long after that.  The boys had insisted in each sleeping in their own tents.  I didn’t really want to buy enough tents for them to each sleep in their own tent, but I pulled out an old tent I had for my dad and I to share, and let the boys sleep in their own tents.  I was sure they would get afraid at night and not want to sleep alone.  I was wrong.  Not a sound was heard from either of them until the next morning.

Will playing in his tent

I was up early – it get’s light around 5am this time of year, and dad snores.  I got the fire going again and walked around a bit.  Will was the next one up, followed by my dad and Ben.

That morning both boys wanted to try the rope swing into the river.  I told them the water was cold, but they could use the rope swing.  They got in their swim trunks, put life jackets on and headed over the the rope swing.  Will got Ben to agree to try the swing if he did it first.  In Will went.  Into the very cold water.  Next it was Ben’s turn.  In he went.  The look on his face was perfect.  He was very surprised by the cold water.  I’m pretty sure if he could have found a way to walk on top of the water he would have.

Ben at Breakfast

The boys then decided to change into their dry pajamas (which they wore the rest of the trip).  We finished breakfast.  I stayed in camp while my dad took the boys exploring our part of the island.

When everyone was back (and the kids getting a little bored), we broke camp and decided to canoe around the island.  I had talked to a pair of rowers that were passing by earlier – they told me it was a nice 3.5km loop around the island.

It wound up being a pretty long canoe trip around the island.  Not too long, but getting close to too long.  We stopped to check out the other campsites on the island (the boys chose Hogback Camp Area for the next trip – scheduled for early June).  The wind was a bit strong when we rounded the island and left Selden Creek and entered the Connecticut River.  The wind and wakes from the passing boats on the Connecticut River made the passage back up the river a bit slow going.  But the boys were as patient as could be expected.

A stop on the way back

Overall it was a great first camping trip for the boys.  They are excited to go again.  It was a great starter trip for the year to highlight missing gear, planning etc.  We made the trip in a 17′ Mohawk canoe, brought 3 tents (2 small Eureka backpacking tents for the boys, and one large cheap 4 person dome tent for my dad and I – I”m not sure how well that would have fared if it rained).  I could definitely use another dry bag before the next trip and a couple more duffel bags to store gear (it is easier if all the gear is in bags to stow in the canoe).  I also need more camp chairs (we only had one, but there were picnic tables at the site).  We packed in all of our water, and went through nearly 2 1/2 gallons of clean water that night – if it were for a longer trip I would have to get a new water filter.  I also forgot how much colder it can be on the river, and next time should pack another layer or two for the boys. I also need a coffee press – no coffee is no fun.   I brought backpacking pads to sleep on.  But I’m getting old, and weight isn’t as much of a problem on a canoe, so I think I’ll get a more comfortable sleeping pad for the next trip.  Maybe trade some weight off with tents and pick up a smaller/lighter third tent.  The propane stove is also on it’s last leg.  I have a gas backpacking stove, but I do like the convenience of the big double burner propane stove when weight isn’t as big of an issue.

A happy Ben

2 thoughts on “A Friday night on the Connecticut River

  1. Hi Chuck. I happened upon your excellent post about your Cedars Camp experience. My wife and I are planning to camp there one night this summer, and I had a question about one of your comments: “We packed in all of our water, and went through nearly 2 1/2 gallons of clean water that night – if it were for a longer trip I would have to get a new water filter”. *Did* you filter any water from the river for drinking, or did you only drink bottled water? I’d like to use my trusty Katadyn water filter when we go there, but was concerned that Conn River is still brackish at Selden Neck, not freshwater.


    1. Kai, thanks for the comments. I really enjoyed the Cedars Camp area. We did paddle by the other three sites on the same island, and they all were nice. We did not filter any water – I don’t know if the water is brackish there or freshwater. I would love to hear about your experiences if you go there (and if the water is fresh or not). It is a big enough site for a larger group, and from where we put in it was a short paddle (so no problem bringing 2 1/2 gallons of water).

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