CANALSIDE RAIL TRAIL:

DEERFIELD-TURNERS FALLS, MASSACHUSETTS

-BIKE IT OR HIKE IT-

Last Updated:       August, 2010

Length:                 Canalside Rail Trail;  3.7 miles 

Difficulty:             Easy. Paved, flat trail.                              

Directions:

To start from Turners Falls; Take exit 27 off of I-91to Route 2 east. After the "Entering Gill" sign, turn right for Turners Falls. This will take you across the Connecticut River and above the dam. Just after crossing the bridge look right to see the Great Falls Discovery Center, where parking is available or if you wish to start from the beginning of the trail, turn left down First St just past the Town Hall. This will take you past Unity Park on the right to a gravel parking lot on the left where the trail begins.

To start from McClelland Farm Road in Deerfield; Take exit 26 off of I-91to Route 2A east to Route 5 south. After crossing over the Deerfield River, take your first left onto River Rd and pass beneath a railroad trestle. After passing beneath another railroad trestle, take the next left turn onto McClelland Farm Rd. The trail starts on the left, next to a parking lot. A large rail yard is to the right.

The Franklin County Bikeway is a planned 23 mile trail linking several Franklin County communities; Greenfield, Deerfield, Gill, Montague, Northfield, Leverett and Sunderland. It primarily consists of a loop through Greenfield, Deerfield, Montague and Gill, with a spur south to Historic Deerfield and a spur north to the Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center. Routing through Leverett and Sunderland will allow riders to travel south to Amherst and connect to bikeways there. See;  Norwottuck East Mass Central Rail Trail . This Bikeway includes a combination of dedicated bike paths (off-road), bike lanes and on-road routes. The Riverside Greenway in Greenfield was the first portion of this Bikeway to be completed. The Canalside Rail Trail runs from Turners Falls (part of Montague), over the Connecticut River and into Deerfield. Turners Falls was constructed in the 1860's by Colonel Alvah Crocker, a post Civil War industrialist. The Power Canal, which flows through the city was then lined with some of the largest turn-of-the-century mills, such as J. Russell Cutlery, Keith Paper Company, Esleek Paper Company and the Griswold Cotton Mill. Before the canal was used for power, it was originally constructed for transportation. In 1794, a dam was constructed on the Connecticut River and the canal built along with a series of locks so that river traffic could avoid the rapids at Great Falls. After the rise of the railroads, the canal lost most of its business and stopped operating in 1856. Then, the Turners Falls Company built a new wood and stone crib dam and rebuilt the canal to how you view it today. The five villages of Montague were also joined together by a Trolley Line in 1885, which used to run through the center of Turners Falls. For more information on the history and environment of the area, visit the GREAT FALLS DISCOVERY CENTER located near the start of the trail. For more information visit;  CANALSIDE RAIL TRAIL .

Starting from the trailhead at Unity Park; The trail runs alongside the Connecticut River on the right and Unity Park across the road on the left. Notice the work of art at the start of the trail (green iron and wood). There is another piece near the Fish Ladder and two more in town. You pass through a small picnic area and parking lot for the Fish Ladder. This enables the fish to bypass the dam across the river and continue upstream. You have a view of the dam and the bridge crossing above it from here. After passing by the Police Station, the trail passes underneath the bridge and comes alongside the Power Canal at .04 miles. 

Note; You can take a quick detour via the pedestrian bridge over the canal to get some nice views of the Connecticut River and the dam.

The paved road to your left brings you up to the Great Falls Discovery Center and Avenue A. The trail continues alongside the canal on the old rail bed with the brick mill buildings on the opposite bank. You come to Turners Falls Rd at 0.7 miles where it crosses over the canal. A separate pedestrian bridge also crosses the canal. 

Note; Take a quick side trip over the canal and use the sidewalk on the Turners Falls Road Bridge to check out the view above the Connecticut River. It's amazing to see just how much water is diverted into the canal as you realize how low the river is here. 

Continuing alongside the canal, two abandoned bridges cross the canal and then a third at the 1 mile mark which was an old railroad bridge. After passing by an active bridge crossing, the canal begins to widen and exit the industrial area. At 1.7 miles, as you travel alongside transmission lines, the canal looks more like a pond surrounded by meadows and hills. The trail then pulls away from the canal at 2.3 miles as you approach a power station. This brings you to a small parking area at the end of Depot Street. The trail continues on-road (residential/very low traffic) by using Depot St to reach Montague City Rd at 2.5 miles. There is no cross-walk here, so Use Caution crossing over to and up Solar Ave (dead end) where you then turn right down Rod Shop Rd. Pass by an old brick building complex with a large smoke stack and water tower (one building labeled 1924) and come to Cabot Rd. In front of you is an old brick schoolhouse, now used by Harmony Lodge. Turn left and you'll be back on the paved trail at 2.8 miles. The trail follows the old rail bed south through a rock cut. Look to your left and you'll spot a lot of old red bricks, some of which are stamped "MONT BRICK". The Montague Brick Company operated in the 1870's. Continue along the trail and you'll come to Greenfield Rd.  Cross the road and a bridge over a small gully and you'll come to the highlight of the trip, the old trestle over the Connecticut River at 3.1 miles. This railroad trestle was built in 1880, however, the flood of 1936 wiped away half the trestle, so one half was reconstructed in 1936. From the bridge, you can look upstream and see where the Deerfield River joins the Connecticut River. After the bridge, the trail heads into the woods along a small berm, with wood fencing along both sides of the trail. Continue along the trail which then turns left away from the rail bed and brings you up to McClelland Farm Road, by the Deerfield Rail Yard, at 3.7 miles. A nice size parking lot is located here. This is the end of the trail. However, if you take a right, you can get a great view of the rail yard from the bridge. Looking from the opposite side of the bridge you can spot an old blue caboose that is used by the rail yard. 

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