Where I row: Charles River Newton

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There is a cool thread going on over at the google plus site rec.sport.rowing about where people row.  I thought I would chime in about my rowing location and double post between here and there.

During the week, I row on the Charles River, but not down in Boston.  I launch in Newton, at the Paddle Boston location where I rent a rack for my boat.  I chose this location because it is right on my commute from home to work so I can maximize my rowing time and minimize my driving time.

From this location you can row up river for nearly a mile, but it is very narrow and quite twisty, so no one ever does that.  Downstream from the launch point is about 4km of rowable water with absolutely beautiful surroundings.  The boathouse is on a lagoon with a hotel overlooking it.  At the north end of the lagoon, the river winds into Nahantan park.  You start by going through a tight s turn and then the river widens out into a nice straight section about 500m long.  It’s perfect for a couple of power 10s during a warmup.

At the end of the straight section, the rower is confronted with a choice.  You can go around a large island in a broad turn to starboard, or dash through “The Cut”.  I almost always go through the cut because I’m ready to start doing some serious rowing.

As you exit the cut, you continue through a straight but narrow section with houses built into the woods on both sides.  On the north bank of the river, the homeowner has realistic sculptures of various animals (bears, alligators, iguanas) lurking in the woods near the water.  He also puts out a tub full of bottled water on weekend days as a gift to paddlers going by.  I’ve never partaken, but it makes feel better about my fellow man every time I pass.

When you exit the narrow section, there is a long cove on the south side.  In this cove, is where I will usually start and finish intervals, since it is more aligned with the rest of the 1K section than the other branch.  The cove is fun because there is a town park on one side with swing sets and a little beach and big grand homes on the other side.  One house has a boat rack and upon a very fine empacher double and a few singles.

Continuing down river, it widens out into a broad area, but only the main channel that I’ve marked stays weed free during the summer.  On both sides are woods.  After passing a small island and a prominent point on the south bank, you turn slightly toward the s-turn.  There is a sunken tree that sticks out of the point that cost me an impeller and damaged the fin my precious Fluid because I strayed too close.

The s-turn is a broad bit of water and you can maintain full pressure through it, but it definitely is a challenge to hold a pace.  The best 2K course runs through the s-turn and I think it is a perfect training ground for head races.  Not so perfect for 2K sprints.

When you emerge from the s-turn, you com into a straight that is about 800m long.  About halfway through it, on what is now the east side of the river, is the Waltham Watch Factory.  Until the 1960s it was a genuine watch factory, but now it is mixed use with commercial space and condos.  They’ve done a great job restoring it.

At the end of this straight bit is the Prospect Street Bridge.  It’s a old stone bridge with three narrow arches.  One of the arches is too shallow to use.  The east arch is used downstream and the center arch upstream.  It takes some careful steering to align to the bridge because it isn’t a straight shot through, but angled to the river.  I do row at full pressure and head race paces through the bridge when I am training 2.5K or 3K pieces, but it costs me some pace to make sure I don’t hit an abutment.

After the bridge, you come into a narrow channel about 200m long with a biomed plant on the west bank.  By coincidence, they are the maker of my lactate meter and strips, Nova Pharmaceuticals.  On the east side are two family homes.  This bit is nice a straight and it is almost irresistible to dig a bit harder and speed up.

The channel empties into a broad basin and you find yourself in the heart of downtown Waltham.  There is a commuter rail line on the west bank, a bridge with lots of traffic at the end of the basin and a dam just beyond it.  On the east side is a big apartment complex with a dock that rents paddle boards and kayaks.

So, in about 4 km you go from scenic parkland with Great Blue Herons, Swans, Geese and Ducks, through an industrial section and into a bustling town center.  There is little boat traffic.  I share the river with one University team during the spring and fall (Brandeis) and a small collection of very nice fishermen.  If I row later in the day on weekends, there is a ton of paddleboards, kayaks and canoes out, so that isn’t too practical, but early mornings basically belong to me and a few other rowers.

It’s a really lovely place to row, and you certainly get a lot of practice steering.

2 thoughts on “Where I row: Charles River Newton

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