The Housatonic Valley Association has made remarkable progress in cleaning up, protecting and preserving the Housatonic River.

The organization celebrated its 70th anniversary this month with a canoe trip along the 149-mile river, from western Massachusetts, where the source is, through Connecticut to Long Island Sound.

The flotilla paddled Tuesday through New Milford from Boardman Bridge through Lover's Leap State Park to Lake Lillinonah in Bridgewater.

The perfect spring day illuminated what is certainly one of the most beautiful stretches of the river. Viewing the tree-laden cliffs along the gorge at Lover's Leap can give a sense of how it appeared centuries ago when native Americans populated the area.

The Housatonic River became a catalyst for growth and industry in New Milford and other towns along its banks.

But the Housatonic has needed protecting.

Chemical pollution years ago from General Electric, in Pittsfield, Mass., contaminated the riverbed and fish.

An $8 million settlement with the company, however, has enabled restoration projects overseen by HVA. Among those are a trail at Sega Meadows and a 25-acre Native Meadows Preserve in New Milford.

HVA is to be congratulated for its work in helping to preserve 5,000 acres of riverfront, forest and meadows along the length of the Housatonic River.

And the organization's work continues with the creation of the Housatonic River Greenway.

Tour guides who last paddled the river's length in 1995 said this week they see a noticeable reduction in the amount of trash dumped along and in the river.

That is an encouraging sign that more people are becoming aware of appreciating -- and protecting -- the river.

With the Source-to-Sound canoe trip, the Housatonic Valley Association has drawn dramatic attention to the river, which is a resource for recreation, inspiration and nature's solace.