Tag Archives: Massachusetts

Kayaking To Choate Island – Essex River Basin – Essex, MA

The Essex River Basin in Essex, MA is home to the Crane Wildlife Refuge. Encompassing seven islands, the refuge is surrounded by the Essex and Castle Neck Rivers and the Great Marsh. Choate Island, the largest of the islands, is a popular kayaking and day hiking destination boasting extraordinary views from its elevation overlooking the river basin and beyond. For little effort, one can easily hike to the height of the land via mown grass trails courtesy of the MA Trustees of Reservations who manage the island and maintain its three historic buildings. Choate Island was originally the summer home of the native Agawam people and more recently, the set of the 1995 movie The Crucible.

WHY PADDLE HERE? –  To explore a tidal river basin, hike Choate Island, relax on a sandbar, for coastal scenic beauty or a  combination kayaking-hiking-beach day.

THE PADDLING ROUTE – For this trip we left the planning to others and joined a guided kayak tour to Choate Island arranged by Essex River Basin Adventures (ERBA) of Essex, MA.

Today’s launch site was the public boat launch located at 138 Conomo Point Road in Essex, MA.  Once on the water, our ERBA tour group of fourteen paddlers immediately turned left, and paddled behind, and then along the left side of, Corn Island.  We then paddled the Choate Island Channel aside the Great East Sand Bar continuing on until reaching the back side of Crane Beach where our group enjoyed some time in the sun and a swim.

After our beach break, we re-launched and paddled over to Choate Island where we landed and hiked on well-worn grass paths to the historic Choate family farm-house still standing since c.1725.  We gathered around the back of the original two-story home and enjoyed a picnic lunch in the shade of the old building.  But, what’s a hike to a historic location without a little local knowledge? Lucky for us, Tom Barrieau of the MA Trustees of Reservations was paddling with our group today and provided a brief history lesson of the island and its early inhabitants.

After our lesson, we continued hiking toward the top of the island while gazing at the magnificent views of the river basin below.  The views along the hike were our reward for the physical effort it took to reach this unique location and we couldn’t help but feel grateful for the opportunity to witness such natural beauty on this warm September afternoon.

Once arriving at the height of the land, we located the final resting place of Cornelius and Mine Crane, the last stop on our journey.  We pondered the views from the hilltop before retracing our steps to the water’s edge and then paddled back to Conomo Point Road landing at Clammer’s Beach.

The impressive views of the Essex River Basin from the trails on  Choate Island, combined with a history lesson, and some time spent on the beach, made this paddle a local adventure to remember and one that we highly recommend.

CAUTIONS- Tides, shifting sand bars, boat traffic and rapidly changing winds and weather conditions.  Attention to the tides is critical as the river basin’s numerous sand bars can leave an unprepared kayaker stranded.

Conomo Point Rd. Boat Launch – Near Low Tide

PARKING & LAUNCH – Because the town of Essex, MA has little to no non-resident public parking spaces at each of its three public launch areas, I would recommend skipping the hassle of trying to find  parking and enlist the services of a local kayak shop.  Essex River Basin Adventures (ERBA) 1 Main St. Essex, MA, is a fully outfitted kayak shop and tour operation offering both kayak rentals and several interesting guided tours.

RESTROOMS – NO.  There are no restrooms available at any of the public launch sites in Essex nor anywhere else while kayaking the Essex River basin, so plan accordingly.

WHEN TO VISIT – Plan to visit during the milder days of June, September or October if your primary reason to paddle the basin is to hike Choate Island.  Otherwise, paddle here during the summer  and spend some time relaxing on a sandbar or the back side of Crane Beach.  Avoid the summer weekend crowds if you can.

TIDE CHART – Click Here


ESSEX RIVER BASIN ADVENTURES – 2020 Update- No longer in business. 







2018 Paddle-A-Thon Topsfield, MA

On Saturday, June 16, 2018 the Ipswich River Watershed Association held their 3rd annual paddling event at the Topsfield Fairgrounds to benefit the beautiful, but endangered, Ipswich River.

More than 130 paddling enthusiasts gathered for a day of fun to support efforts to protect the Ipswich River and its wildlife.

A 4-mile morning group paddle, followed by lunch, live music and an afternoon canal race kept all the guests busy and entertained while raising funds and awareness for the river.

It was our first time paddling the Ipswich River, and our first time paddling this year, and what a day it turned out to be.  Sunny skies and perfect temperatures made for a leisurely day exploring the river, making new friends and paddling for a worthy cause.

The folks at the Ipswich River Watershed Association work hard at promoting the ecological and recreational value of the Ipswich River and we applaud their dedication and continuing commitment to the health of the river.

We encourage all paddlers to learn more about the Ipswich River Watershed Association and hopefully join them in protecting this valuable local river, its tributary streams and its estuary.

Be a champion for the river!

We certainly plan on paddling the Ipswich River estuary this year and hope to learn more about these local waters and the recreational opportunities they provide.

Have you paddled the Ipswich River estuary?

To learn more about the Ipswich River and several of its paddling routes please refer to the links below.

Ipswich River Watershed AssociationClick Here

Middleton  Stream TeamClick Here








Kayaking the Lower Merrimack River – A Free Presentation – June 7, 2018

Have you always wanted to kayak the tidal areas of the lower Merrimack River but lack the confidence to do so?  Do you long to explore the creeks and salt marshes of the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge but question whether you have the necessary skills required to paddle these tricky waters?

Well you’re not alone, but all that is about to change.  Attend a free presentation that will boost your knowledge, increase your confidence and provide an opportunity to meet other kayakers interested in paddling this scenic tidal area.

Parker River Wildlife Refuge at dusk

The Merrimack River Watershed Council is offering  a free program, Kayaking the Lower Merrimack River, presented by Ken Taylor, the owner of Plum Island Kayak.  Ken is a highly regarded, highly experienced kayaker who will teach you tips and tricks designed to help you safely paddle the lower Merrimack River area.

This free program will be presented Thursday, June 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport., MA.  No reservations required.




Kayaking Merrimack River – Seal Trip – Newburyport, MA

WHY PADDLE HERE? – For viewing harbor and gray seals and a tidal river experience.

THE PADDLING ROUTE – Once launching we paddled down river stopping short of Black Rocks near the mouth of the river where harbor and gray seals gather.

As our large kayak group neared the area of the rocks, the seals immediately fled retreating underwater for safety.  The seals then popped their heads up out of the water a safe distance from the group and kept a watchful eye on us before disappearing once again underwater.

After viewing the seals for a bit, the group then landed on the north side of the river at the Salisbury, MA State Reservation where we breaked for lunch before paddling upriver back to the launch.

CAUTIONS! – Strong currents and cross directional waves, especially near the mouth of the river.  Keep watch for frequent and large boat traffic.  

Strong NW winds can be challenging to paddle against even when paddling with the tide and our paddling group experienced these winds first hand.  Halfway through our trip the winds picked up substantially making for a difficult and exhausting journey back to the launch.  

If a kayaker stopped paddling even for a brief second,  he or she immediately started going backward even though we were paddling with the tide in our favor.  Several kayakers were so fatigued by paddling against these winds they had to be towed by the guides.  

Unfortunately for two inexperienced paddlers, today’s conditions proved too much for them and each man capsized.  The experienced guides assisted each paddler re-enter their kayaks and finish the trip albeit wet and cold.

If you are an inexperienced kayaker, I recommend  that you engage the services of professional guides when paddling here, it just may save your life.

PARKING & LAUNCH – We rented tandem kayaks for this guided late October tour from Plum Island Kayak in Newburyport, MA.  Their rental office is located at 92 Merrimack St. and there is parking behind their building.  The office is located a short walk from the boat ramp located adjacent to the waterfront Black Cow and Grill restaurant.  There is an additional public parking lot with meters at the boat ramp.

RESTROOMS –  The group accessed the Salisbury MA State Reservation campground facilities during our break.

WHEN TO VISIT – Harbor and gray seals gather here in the spring and fall during low tide only so plan accordingly.  Locally, seal watching is popular and kayak trips fill up fast, so book early.



DIRECTIONS – Click Here.