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I was hoping to start this trip a little further upstream but I couldn't find any good put ins. In addition there is a water treatment plant upstream in Lowell. Having experienced the smell coming from the plant while driving in my car I have no desire to kayak through it. I found a pretty good put in on route 110 in Dracut almost directly across from the entrance to Brox Industries. It is a small pulloff with parking for a couple cars right on the banks of the Merrimack.
This trip starts in Dracut but after about a quarter mile you will be in Methuen. For the first couple miles of this trip the banks of the river are completely undeveloped. The river is fairly wide and deep so expect to see some power boat traffic. I made this trip on a weekday afternoon and encountered at least 6 power boats. As you get further downstream there are more residences along the left bank, many with docks, power boats and jet skis. It was nice to see the Methuen Police boat docked as well. I am sure they are kept busy with the powerboat traffic on the weekend
A couple miles in you will encounter an island on the left bank. I opted to paddle the narrow channel inside the island. All of the houses along the channel had docks with a couple boats docked on each one. The channel does have a no wake zone sign posted so it is a kayak safe area.
Another mile of paddling will take you around a bend to the right and under the route 93 overpass. I have driven over that overpass thousands of times nice to finally paddle under it.
There is very little development on the right bank of the river until you get to Lawrence. Just before the end of this trip I noticed a marina on the right bank. In doing some research for this blog post I learned that it is the Abe Bashara Boathouse which is part of Greater Lawrence Community Boating. They appear to offer inexpensive sailing, rowing and paddling classes. Interestingly I never knew this place existed until today. Might be something to look into in the future.
Just a few hundred yards down from the boathouse is the boat launch at Lawrence Riverfront State park. The park has a large ramp and a large parking lot that was pretty empty on the day of my paddle. The neighborhood isn't the greatest though, I had my wife pick me up when I was done my paddle as I didn't want to leave my car in the parking lot. Just downstream from the take out is the Great Stone Dam and powerplant. There are barrels strung across the river as well as signs warning you not to venture further downstream. I do plan to make a trip upstream to the Great Stone Dam. The dam itself is said to be a tourist destination and there are some pretty interesting mill old buildings in that stretch of river as well.
The total distance of this trip was about 5.5 miles and it took me about 2 hours to paddle. It was a nice little afternoon trip, Not sure I would attempt it on the weekend though as I assume the boat traffic gets pretty heavy.