Backyard exploration is a hobby often overlooked, and easily underappreciated.

A river runs freely here in the Valley, and conservationists and recreationists of all ages will be at its edge this weekend with paddles in hand for the 5th annual Fort River Celebration Day.

The day’s events will feature several interactive learning experiences, as well as the ever-popular Rubber Ducky Race (“Ladies and gentlemen, start your … ducky?”). But the highlight will undoubtedly be the kayak/canoe paddle down Fort River.

“Stream ecologists lead explorative canoers and learners down the wild section of the Fort River from Kiwanis Park to Groff Park,” the organizers state. “Let’s share the wonders of a river that provides our drinking water, habitat for rare species, and is the longest free-flowing tributary to the CT River!”

Longest free-flowing Connecticut River tributary. Now that is mighty impressive indeed.

The Celebration Day is sponsored in part by the Rushing Rivers Institute, “a non-profit organization (501c3) promoting river education and proper-use of science in river management and restoration to secure healthy river systems for the environment and people,” their website states.

Based here in the Valley out of Amherst, (and in Port Huron, MI), Rushing Rivers feels that “running waters need to be envisioned as the arteries of the landscape that connect the dry land with the source of life in the oceans,” their website continues. “It is not only that they create the foundation of life, but also stand out for their high diversity and constant change.”

Participants in the paddle will be shuttled from the Celebration Day event site of Groff Park in Amherst, to Kiwanis Park, farther up river. Past years have seen a good turn out, and those wanting to participate, but not having their own kayak or canoe, are urged to register online ahead of time.

(The video above features guitar music by Chris Dixon, who quotes portions of the theme song from James Bond, and then Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” both just after the 5 minute mark. Neither song has anything to do with rivers or paddling that I can think of. Possibly more appropriately, there’s also a nice map of the Fort River route at about 7 minutes.)

Visit their website ( for more information. And happy paddling!