Connecticut River Conservancy staging scavenger hunt to reveal views, experiences to treasure

You’ve fished in it, maybe, or boated its waters … or you’ve at least looked down on the Connecticut River from the French King, Bennett Meadow or Deerfield-Sunderland bridges.

But a Connecticut River scavenger hunt?

“Quest 65” is how the Connecticut River Conservancy is celebrating its 65th anniversary this summer, engaging the people who live along the 410-mile waterway and 11,000-square-mile, four-state watershed.

And although the scavenger hunt began quietly in mid-June, there’s still lots of time for families and individuals to download their free app and began racking up points for prizes — and more importantly, fun.

(Stopping by one of the watershed’s many breweries, or climbing up to the top of one of its observation points, like Mount Toby or Mount Sugarloaf, are among the varied possibilities.)

Each of the more than 70 clues earns a person or team a point, and a chance at an array of prizes. Yet instead of the clues leading you to hidden treasures, they lead participants to treasured experiences and views, and point toward prizes at the end.

It’s as simple as viewing French King Bridge and viewing the rock that was named for a king, or crossing the river somewhere on a bicycle. Or by touring your local wastewater treatment plant or traveling to the Connecticut’s headwaters in northern New Hampshire.

Art lovers can paint, draw or sculpt a view of the river, or you can photograph yourself at a covered bridge or stage a “splash mob” photo with friends.

Or you can answer one of several quiz questions (What are the main impacts of climate change on our rivers?) or pitch in for the nonprofit organization’s annual Source to Sea Cleanup on Sept. 22 and 23.

“We felt this was a good way to engage people, to help them get out and explore and re-engage with the rivers,” explained Stacey Lennard, events and special projects coordinator for the Greenfield-based organization formerly known as the Connecticut River Watershed Council. “We want to celebrate the work we and other groups have done over the years and how much cleaner the river has become. And to see all of the resources that exist in the watershed” — a watershed that also includes the Deerfield, Millers, and Green rivers and their tributaries.

Conservancy staff were so busy with its Source to the Sea celebration in June and July that they may have meandered a bit — as the river itself often does — in publicizing the this “Quinnetukut quest,” Lennard admits, invoking the ancient Algonquin name for the region the river flows through.

But while only 35 people are participating by the midway point toward the Oct. 15 deadline — with one already garnering 38 points by press time — the conservancy is pulling out all the stops to encourage more people to join in.

“It’s not too late,” Lennard says. “We’ve included more than 65 ‘clues’ so you don’t have to get to every spot. There are museums, historical sites, natural features. Some are more open-ended, so you can do them anywhere that’s close to you. Or you can answer quiz questions. Every clue is worth a point.”

The quiz, she adds, gives participants a chance to think about the river ecology even when they’re not able to get outside.

“It struck a chord with all of us as a way to engage and keep it kind of mysterious and adventurous but not too difficult, so it’s all accessible,” she says.

For teams or individuals, the quest actually offers an ever-growing list of ways people can paddle along the waterways, walk along nature trails in the watershed, visit sites like Vermont’s Quechee Gorge or the Turners Falls Discovery Center to learn about lamprey eels, or lend a hand in pulling invasive water chestnuts from Holyoke’s Long Pond Cove.

And then there are the prizes: a Cabela’s tackle box for kids, a water-ski lesson from Oxbow Water Ski Team, a brunch for two at Saybrook Point Inn in Connecticut, a handcrafted canoe paddle by Florence woodworker Ira Cutris, a ride aboard the RiverQuest in Connecticut, a river outing with a Conservancy steward or a canoeing lesson with its executive director, and a gift certificate at the People’s Pint in Greenfield.

And then there’s the grand prize: an overnight stay for two at Snapdragon Inn in Windsor, Vt.

Everyone who enters will get 10 percent discount on Conservancy’s maps, guides and other merchandise.

But the real prize in this “choose-your-own” adventure, on which you choose when to embark and how many stops you’ll include, is the chance to experience the river and the entire watershed, says Lennard.

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Author: Going Green

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