Saturday, October 9, 2010

Boat Launch at Tyngsboro Campground opening soon

The below linked article was in the Lowell Sun this week about the upcoming opening of the Tyngsboro Campgroud.  Amongst the park benches, swings for kids and horseshoe pits the campground will have the only cartop boat launch on the Merrimack River in Tyngsboro.  Unfortunately it looks like the park is for town residents only.  The article below has a video tour of the park.  No exact date of the opening but the article says they are hoping to open in the fall or spring.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Merrimack River Kayak Trip - Riverside Park, Haverhill MA to Cashman Park, Newburyport MA

View Haverhill to Newburyport in a larger map

I started my trip to Cashman Park in Newburyport from Riverside Park in Haverhill.  I headed out a little before 8am this past Sunday morning and the temperature outside read 46 degrees when I left the house.  A little bit chilly for me but the sun was out and according to the forecast it was to be a nice day. I have spoken to a couple people who have paddled this section of the Merrimack river and apparently Haverhill is the beginning of the tidal influence so you don't want to be paddling against the incoming tide.  It was recommended to start this paddle right around high tide so you can ride it our rather than fight the incoming tide.  I started my trip about an hour after high tide and it seemed to work out pretty well.  The last time I was at Riverside park the river was few feet lower. This time around the water was covering the bottom step of the stairs to the water.   Made for an interesting launch, luckily I stayed dry.

Merrimack River Boat Launch at Riverside Park
My trip started out pretty sunny with a 10 mph wind from the north, the wind was in my face for most of the trip but it would die down here and there to give me a break.  About a mile into the paddle you will pass under the Groveland Street Bridge.  This Bridge connects Haverhill on the left side of the river to Groveland on the right.  After passing under the bridge the river widens up a bit and the are a couple large marinas on the Haverhill side of the river.

 Groveland Street Bridge

Choppy water heading into the marina section
On the Groveland side of the river there is a park with a boat launch.  I couldn't find much information about this boat launch so I am not sure if it was private or for town residents only.   For the next 5 or so miles of the paddle the river is fairly wide and heads in a  northeasterly direction.  The shoreline was littered with big beautiful houses each with a dock extending dozens of feet into the river with and equally big and beautiful powerboats attached.  I was surprised bu the lack of powerboat traffic in the river but it was early on a pretty cool morning at the end of the boating season so that probably had a lot to do with it.  The foliage was starting to show in some sections, I think I was just a couple weeks early for peak foliage season.

 Groveland Boat Launch

 Falll is in the air

The next bridge that you will pass on this paddle is the Rocks Village Bridge which connects Haverhill with West Newbury.  This bridge was originally built in 1885 and is the oldest movable bridge under MassHighway control.  There is a 1-800 number on the bridge that you can call and apparently some guys will come out and manually open the bridge.  Hard to believe this is still done by hand.  I have never seen it open but it looks like it just rotates around the hub in the middle.  Would be interesting to see the guys running around the hub to open the bridge.

After the bridge the river curves to the right and heads in a more easterly direction.  In this section there are more marinas on the left side of the river and and not much development on the right side.   You will pass through the towns of Merrimack and Amesbury on the left side of the river.  The right side of the river is still West Newbury until you get to Newburyport.  Once you enter Newburyport, on the right side if the river is Maudslay State Park so there is no development in this section which is quite a contrast the abundance of marinas on the other side of he river.

Hatters Point Marina

Shoreline grasses alongt the state park
On the left side of the river in Amersbury is the mouth of the Powwow river.  I wanted to paddle up to get a closer look but the docks from the marina seemed to be blocking my way and I was getting a bit tired and needed to conserve my energy rather than go exploring.  The current was getting pretty strong in the section as well and I found it very difficult to paddle upstream for any distance.

Mouth of the Powwow River

At this point the river curves sharply to the right before you pass under the route 95 bridge..  This was the point where my trip began to get a little hairy.  I was on the right side of the river to avoid the marinas but I wanted to paddle around the islands on the left.  Unfortunately the current was way too strong and I couldn't get across to the left side of the river.  So I just let the current pull me past the right side of the islands.  There was one section just past the chain bridge where there were 2 foot waves where I assume the river was passing over some large rocks.  I was able to avoid them but there were more obstacles to come.  The last couple miles the weather seemed to turn a bit bad on me as it got a bit cloudy and colder.  The waves in this section were getting pretty big as well as I had a couple wash over my bow and completely soak me.  Guess I need to invest in a spray skirt.  There were also quite a few marinas that extended at least halfway across the river which prevented me from hugging the shore and I had to paddle basically down the middle of the river where it was pretty rough.   Interestingly a couple marine patrol boats kept passing by.  Not sure but I think they may have been keeping an eye on me in case I got into trouble.  I was the only kayak in the river, actually I was pretty much the only moving boat in the river.  I don't think I saw more that 10 boats pass me on this whole trip.

 Route 95 Bridge
Chain Bridge

Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of the last section of the trip as this section was fairly rough   The islands that you will pass are Deer Island, Eagle Island, Carr Island, and Ram Island.  The bridge on the right side of the river connecting Deer island to Newburyport is called Chain Bridge,  This bridge was completed in 1910 and is the only suspension bridge maintained by MassHighway.  The bridge on the left side of the river connecting Amesbury to Deer Island is called the Derek S. Hines Memorial Bridge.  This section of the Merrimack River will also bring you into Salisbury on the left side of the river.  I am told that this area is a prime area for bald eagle viewing.  The eagles nest on these islands and can be seen all over the area.  My final mile or so of paddling past the islands on the left and the marinas on the right finally took me to my destination of Cashman Park.  Cashman park can get a bit crazy in the summer months but was pertty quiet for my take out.  This is a large park with lots of parking and two public boat ramps.  At the emd of my trip  I was a tired, cold and a pretty wet but happy to see my wife waiting for me with a change of clothes and a trip into Newburyport for a bowl of hot clam chowder.

Cashman Park

Total distance of this trip was just over 13 miles and it took me just under 4 hours.  This is a trip that I will definitely paddle again but next time I will be sure to not take the trip alone.  This section of the river can be pretty dangerous,   A couple of  people drowned just a bit downstream at the mouth over the summer.  This trip definitely gave me more respect for the river. This is a trip that should be paddled with a  buddy.  Next time I will also paddle north of the islands as well as to avoid the marinas and strong currents in this section.  Taking this paddle on a warmer day definitely would have been more comfortable but I assume that would have also increased the boat traffic. Also a less windy day probably would have made this trip quicker, drier and more comfortable as well.  Overall though a great trip and a definite learning experience.