Monday, August 2, 2010

Concord River Kayak Trip - Lowell to North Billerica

View Concord River in a larger map

The Concord River is 15 mile long river starting in Concord MA and emptying into the Merrimack River in Lowell MA.  The river was the subject of the 1849 book "A week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers" by Henry David Thoreau.

My Kayaking trip along the Concord River was approximately 7 miles round trip and took me about 2-1/2 hours.  I basically paddled between the dam in Lowell and the dam in North Billerica and back.  I put-in at the only official boat launch on the Concord River.  The launch is in Lowell at the intersection of Lawrence and Billerica Streets.  The launch is part of a small park, there is plenty of parking and a short crushed stone path to the cement dock/ramp.

I knew from google maps that there was a dam a bit downstream so I would not get very far but there is an old abandoned rail trestle running through the side of the river that I wanted to get a look at.  Not sure why it wasn't built on dry land but probably has something to do with the cemetery on the other side.  So I headed downstream under two bridges and got about as close as I dared to the falls at the dam.  I have read that in the spring there are whitewater rafting trips offered on the section downstream of the dam.  Some of the rapids being class IV, I don't think I will be kayaking downstream anytime soon.

A quick turnaround and I headed upstream.  I am used to paddling upstream in the Merrimack River which varies from difficult to impossible so I was quite surprised to as noticed not much of a current at all in the Concord.   There are some residences along the banks of the river but very few docks.  I expected to see a bit of boat traffic but I had the river all to myself except for a few people fishing from the banks.     

For the most part the banks of the river are lined with grasses and flowering plans which provide a nice refuge for wildlife.  I saw a Great Blue Heron, Red Tailed Hawks and turtles sunning themselves on rocks as I paddled by.  A mile into my paddle I was confronted with the a floating sign warning me of the construction ahead on the 495 overpass.    The rest of the trip into North Billerica is dotted with houses but still a pretty quiet trip.

The last section of this trip took a hard left and led me up to an industrial building sitting what seemed like in the middle of the river.  There is a narrow section along the left of the building allowing you to paddle fairly close to the falls.  I does get a bit shallow though so you can't get too close.  This was the end of the line so I rested for a few minutes and let the stronger current from the falls push me back downstream a bit before I started my paddle back to Lowell.

Overall I really enjoyed this section of the Concord River, it is fairly local and provides a nice diversion from my regular trips along the Merrimack.  I believe there is a fairly popular kayaking put-in in Concord MA that I would like to investigate at some point in the future.


  1. Hi
    I took this trip today. It's exactly as you described. Lots of Blue Heron's, birds, turtles on rocks. A mix of nature and industry (power lines, I-93). Took about 2 hours RT. Thanks for posting your trip (and others).

  2. Hi,
    Just found this page as I was looking for new places to explore by kayak. Have posted a few videos on kayaking, if anyone should like to see them go to youtube and type reuben pelham in the search window.
    Thanks for the info,