Around Town

Cruise allows paddlers to experience nature up-close

Phil Sousa and Brian Conz examine the status of the Westfield River water flow prior to a past canoe/kayak cruise. (WNG File Photo)

WESTFIELD-John “Jack” Pelli has traversed the Westfield River for the past four years as part of the Westfield River Watershed Association’s annual canoe/kayak cruise and recommends the experience to anyone who wishes to “witness nature in all of its glory.”

“In the past I have witnessed eagles, hawks, herring, beavers, and osprey,” said Pelli who is serving as prime organizer of the June 15 event. Pelli is also the incoming treasurer of the association.

“When you do the cruise, you have a totally different perspective of the river from what you normally observe when you drive on Route 20,” said Pelli, noting how the river propels and directs you from Westfield to Robinson State Park, 428 North St., Feeding Hills. The event is June 15 this year.

“Around healthy watersheds you will also occasionally see deer coming down from the forested area to drink,” he added.

Registration takes place from 10 – 11 a.m. in the parking area just east of the south end of the Great River Bridges and is accessible from Meadow Street. After registering, participants will drop off their boat at the end of Hanover Street and take their cars to the end of the cruise in Robinson State Park. A shuttle will return paddlers to Hanover Street.

The first group departs at approximately 11:30 a.m.  The cost is $10 per paddler or $25 per family. 

“Paddlers of all abilities can enjoy the cruise and it is a worthwhile activity for families because it isn’t challenging,” said Pelli, adding the event is not a race.

“People can go at their own pace,” he said.

“Essentials” for participants include a seaworthy boat, appropriate paddles, Coast Guard approved personal flotation devices, sunglasses on a lanyard and clothing that dries quickly and offers protection from the sun. Long-sleeved shirts are encouraged as well as boots or sneakers you don’t mind getting wet or muddy.

“A whistle is a requirement,” said Pelli, stressing the audio signal will let someone know if you are in trouble and need assistance.

Also essential for paddlers is wearing a wide brimmed hat and applying sunscreen.

“The six-mile route on the river takes two to three hours so we also encourage participants to bring water or a sports drink, as well as crackers and fruit in a sealed plastic bag.

“Please leave your cell phone in the car,” said Pelli.

Once arriving at Robinson State Park, all cruise participants are accounted before and then are encouraged to enjoy the festivities during Robinson State Park Day. A host of science and nature activities are planned, ranging from informal walks to swimming and exploring in the Robinson Swimming Pool.

Prior to the cruise launch, experts who are familiar with the river route will follow the path to ensure there are no obstacles in the way.

“We want to make the activity safe for everyone to enjoy,” said Pelli. “If we detect a particularly challenging part of the river, we will have someone on land who will safeguard people who process through it.”

People will also be placed along the cruise route with cell phones for communication purposes if an issue arises.

In the event the cruise has to be canceled due to weather or river conditions, a posting will appear on the association’s website –

“Last year we didn’t have enough water in the river,” said Pelli, adding some places in the river could be walked across so the cruise was canceled. 

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