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To Al Brown of Groton, paddling the Wood-Pawcatuck River is a little like finding a secret sanctuary within a house you thought you knew well.
"It's a beautiful river, shady in most places," said Brown, who handles publications and technical support projects at the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center in Mystic. "You can be on the river and be unaware of the roads nearby, and people on the roads are unaware of the river."
Brown, who previously worked at national parks in Alaska and Florida, has been leading a series of summer paddles on the river for about a dozen years, guiding up to a dozen people at a time in kayaks and canoes one section at a time.
The Wood River starts in Sterling and flows southeast into rural Exeter, R.I. Eventually it meets the Pawcatuck River in Alton, R.I., winding west then south to form the southern section of the border between the two states at Pawcatuck and Westerly.
This summer, the paddle series began June 14 and will continue on June 28 along the section from Hope Valley to Alton, past a portage at an old mill and around the Maple Avenue dam to Alton Pond. The series continues on Saturdays through Aug. 23.
"In the summer, it's a quiet, flowing river," he said. "Almost anybody can do it in the summer. There are only a few areas where you have to paddle like hell."
On past trips, he said, he and the paddlers have encountered osprey, kingfishers and other birds, turtles, deer, the occasional beaver and evidence of otter - piles of empty shells from the freshwater mussels they love to eat. The river is forested much of the way, giving it the feel of a leafy corridor protected from the developed world around it.
"I try to teach people how to read the river, how the river moves," Brown said.
To register or for information: http://dpnc.org or call (860) 536-1216
Cost per trip: $20 for Denison-Pequotsepos Nature Center members; $25 for nonmembers
Time: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Dates: June 28, Hope Valley to Alton; July 12, Shannock Falls and Burdickville; July 26, Richmond Landing to Bradford; Aug. 9, Bradford to Potter Hill; Aug. 23, Potter Hill to Westerly.