My daughter and I did this trip. I am a 46 male in decent shape. She is 10, a gymnast. Every summer we do a family canoe camping trip and a few years ago we did a Potomac river camping trip. This summer my daughter has numerous unfilled days. I run my own business and we both had a spot that could be filled with this trip. My grandparents lived near the river in South Hadley and growing up I had always wanted to go on the river. I never did until now.
First paragraph is just regarding parking and taking Amtrak back to the car at the end;
As my daughter isn't old enough for a drivers license we needed to shuttle. After trying to recruit a ride for the take-out, we discovered Amtrak. One of the routes goes up route 91, not sure about how far, but it worked for out portion of the river. We drove from our home in NYC up to Brattleboro, VT. Across the river in NH is a Norm's marina, listed on this site on the map. Rate for a car with a canoe; $20 per day and $10 to launch. We dealt with Elena, a super chill lady. Although the $70 she charged us is kinda expensive, the peace of mind it offered over overnight street parking is worth it. After parking we used the port-a-potty, loaded the canoe and got on with the trip. At the end we got out in Deerfield, MA., the closest (SUPERUNIMPROVED) boat launch to Greenfield, where there is an Amtrak station. A person living near the Deerfield boat launch gave us a ride to the station. I wouldn't count on that. We got lucky. We even put our boat and most gear in their backyard while we took the train back up to our car. That worked out super well. I was planning on either portaging to the train station and locking the boat there (glad I didn't (no place to leave bags as the station inside was closed)). The other plan was to lock the boat to a tree in the undergrowth, hide unimportant gear, and bring the rest back with us to the car. That could have worked. Train was $28 for both of us from Greenfield to Brattleboro. The train was late and it took us 3 hours to get about 30 miles. So there's that. Greenfield has a cute restaurant called Hope and Olive about a block and a half away that made the wait no prob. They are even really good with dietary or veg restrictions. After getting out of the train in Greenfield, my daughter and I walked across the bridge to Norm's marina. Yes, we walked. It was bout 20 minutes on a sidewalk and pretty. No taxi needed if you don't have much with you. Got our car, drove back down to Deerfield, strapped up canoe and loaded up, thanked good samaritans for the use of their yard and the ride to the station and drove home. Stopped by Northampton to get dinner on way back to city.
Second paragraph is the trip;
Leaving Norm's marina was great, the water was easy. We passed a decommissioned Nuclear plant, that was cool. We portaged around Vernon Dam, we used a steel canoe cart; a garage sale find. New ones go for $150. For our trip the canoe cart was a lifesaver. I would not do the trip without it, at least with a child. Maybe with another strong adult you could portage canoe and gear in a one way trip, but I found the cart to be smooth and effortless over the paved portages. There are steepish hills at the out and in, so help is needed (even from a 10yr old). Do-able though. Very shortly after the Vernon Dam portage was our campsite; Stebbins Island. There is a channel around the right side of the island that gives access to the campsite. The landing is sandy, and like on the Potomac, the campsites are not usually marked or super obvious. We got there right before sundown, too. Campsite nice. No nails in trees. Bring bug repellant or candles, for there are many bugs. There is a fire pit. For us it was soggy, so no fire. There is a privy. Not bad. This first day, from Brattleboro to Vernon, was super short since we were arriving at the end of the first day. With one adult, there's lots of camp work. Maybe you're better at delegating than I... choose your battles. The next day was hotter than the first, in the high 80 low 90's and really humid. Somewhere along the way in vernon we went swimming on a sandy bank. We had to do the dreaded 3 mile portage through Turners Falls. We bought a bag of ice for my daughter's head. Without that, I think we would have failed. We loved this portage. It brought us past a few restaurants on Avenue A. The one we chose is called Black Cow and it was awesome. My daughter loved it, so did I. Great service and food. Back to portage, 2 more miles, but after sitting in AC and having milkshakes and iced tea! Canoe cart, canoe cart canoe cart. Balanced correctly, most of the portage was done with ONE HAND. The only time it was slightly hard was on inclines, necessitating a change of grip. On actual hills, my daughter helped out on one end. We intended to go many more miles than we actually did, In fact that night we stepped at an undesignated campsite. Finding the right place, is tricky. We found a roadway that appeared to be out of use and camped on that. Nobody came through and there were no bugs. We got really lucky. Paddling that day was cool. We lowered miles and did a bunch of fossil hunting. (found not one) We even had a fossil hammer with us. The next night we stayed at Hatchery Brook primitive campsite. The site was nice, with a table, two tent platforms, even a jobbox that comes in handy for overnight food storage. If you aren't used to lots of stairs, this could be tough. Also the stairs have spaces between them-probably hard for little kids or old folks. Thanks to the volunteers who make this place as nice as it is. We left only about 5 dollars as I only had 20 dollar bills left and needed it for taxi emergency or something. Next time. Ok so here's the rub- Hatchery Brook is 2 miles down the river from Deerfield, our planned exit from the river. We had to paddle up the river, some parts we almost didn't make it. We both had to paddle our absolute hardest to fight the light rapids in sections. We inched up parts. When we did overcome the current, it felt like quite an accomplishment for us both. We then entered the Deerfield river and paddled up that as well. This river was no problem to paddle against. We found the launch and left the river. The trip was great and can't wait to plan another, higher up. Or to research fossils more and do this portion again!
Summary Brattleboro to Hatchery Brook, with an upriver stretch back up to Deerfield River boat launch; about 38 river miles. Not bad for a dad and daughter trip with two full days and two half days. Thursday night through Sunday. July 11-14 2019