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East Haddam - With the goal of extending a paddlers' trail along the entire length of New England's longest river, the Connecticut River Watershed Council, the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Vermont River Conservancy are joining forces Saturday at Gillette Castle State Park for a celebration and announcement.
At the 11 a.m. event, the three groups will unveil a plan to extend the trail into Massachusetts and Connecticut.
It now consists of access areas and more than 30 campsites every 5 to 10 miles in New Hampshire and Vermont.
"This event is for anyone who loves the river," Angela Mrozinski, outreach and events director at the watershed council, said Wednesday.
During the event, she said, the groups will share progress thus far in creating the southern portion of the trail, the result of scouting paddles and meetings with landowners along the river.
The trail is managed by a collaborative of organizations that work together on trail planning and development, including building and taking care of campsites, improving access and portage points and distributing information, the council said in a news release.
"This trail is an investment for those who are enthusiastic about being out on the water, and the 410-mile journey from the river's source to the sea is one of New England's iconic adventures," said Andrew Fisk, executive director of the council.
After the announcement, participants will be invited to join a 1- to 2-hour paddle from the boat launch on the river just below the castle to Selden Island State Park in Lyme, where there are four campsites that may become part of the trail, said Jacqueline Talbot, Connecticut river steward for the council. There are three other state-owned camping areas on the Connecticut portion of the river, she noted. The paddle will begin at 1:30 p.m.
Over the past year, she said, members of the council and other partners have paddled about 50 miles of the southern portion of the river to chart desirable spots for campsites and access areas. Using that information, the group began searching for willing partners who would host the trail stops. Campsites with be "primitive," with an outhouse and some privacy, she said.
"We want to be light on the land, sensitive to the ecology," Talbot said.
Speaking at Saturday's event will be Steve Grant, who wrote a 17-part chronicle of his journey from the headwaters to Long Island Sound while he was a reporter at The Hartford Courant.
Jim Dina, who told about his experiences paddling the river in a birch bark canoe in the book "The Voyage of the Ant," will be a featured guest. The Bud Foster Award will also be presented.
Registration for the event is encouraged.