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Herring River, Harwich


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Does anyone know anything about paddling there?

It flows north/south to the east of W. Harwich, west of Harwichport. It is on the Topozone map here:


BTW, the Harwich harbormaster's website has, amongst a huge number of links, some info on kayak safety. (Also lots promoting the mandatory PFD bill.) Go here: http://www.vsv.cape.com/~harharb/main6.html

wait for it to load, then scroll down. On the right side is a kayak with "Safe Kayaking is No Accident." I think they did a pretty good job on the major points.

Liz N.

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I paddled the Herring River once in a canoe, in pre-kayak days, with Fred Bull as guide -- he's the author of a book on Cape paddling. It's a lovely stretch of river that begins as salt water and ends as mostly fresh, with some meandering through salt marshes, etc.

Check Bull's book -- Paddling Cape Cod. It's an excellent reference on quiet water paddling on the Cape, inland and protected areas. This is trip #22.

As for the kayak safety stuff, remember that Harwich is where the two young women were lost and died in fog in rec boats, without PFDs. That was the incident which has directly engendered the current push for legislation.


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The Herring River is fun! I must've paddled up and down it 15 or 20 times, and still love it. It's a great workout.

Starting from the entrance into Nantucket Sound - after clearing the channel past the jetty, there is a section of about 2 miles where boats are moored. You'll pass under Lower County Road, and then there's a good put-in point on Route 28 - where you can park and head north. I have a house on the Sound, so I just paddle over, but if you want to skip the area where the boats are moored, just got to east side of route 28 and park on the south side, across from the restaurant.

Going north from route 28 - as a general rule, always take the left hand fork in the river. About half a mile north of route 28, you will enter a bird sanctuary.

The river meanders quite a bit and you can get hit unexpectedly by the current when you go against it and turn a corner - no big deal, but it's interesting. There's one hairpin bend that'll catch you by surprise on an ebb, I guarantee.

Going upstream another couple of miles, you go under a foot bridge. The marsh it drains has a large number of birds - I've seen arctic swans, blue herrons, red tailed hawks, and even what I think was a Wilson's snipe - ospreys and kingfishers. Gulls and cormorants, of course.

About a mile past the footbridge, is another bridge - this one is a dirt road that goes over the Herring. A bit further upstream from that road bridge, you get to a dam. Upstream from the dam is a resevoir that's a nice quiet paddle. It's a quick portage over the dam. The only caution I'd make in the resevoir is that there are a lot of dead trees and some barely-submerged stumps that could hang you up - so keep your eyes peeled.

Basically any skill level can do it.

I developed a little game called the "Herring River Slalom" - the rules are that you have to paddle the whole thing with no stern rudder and minimal sweep strokes - just use edging around the bends. When you do this in the modest current (less than a knot), it really pushes the edging skills.

Anyway, I love the sanctuary and highly recommend the paddle north from Rt. 28.


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You can pretty much do it on any tide, but high water is best, because it can get a bit shallow on the inside of some of the bends (plus it smells a bit rank at low tide).

You can paddle from Rt. 28 north to the dam at the resevoir comfortably in about an hour in flat water. If you want to do the resevoir, I'd add an extra hour for exploration. If you go against the current, add about 20 minutes, subtract going with.

I did the whole trip in 3 hours from my house at Allen Harbor, including a portage into the resevoir. This included about one nm in Nantucket Sound before hitting the entrance. BTW - on the west side of the entrance of the river, on the Sound, it can get pretty darn choppy with a SW wind - quite shoaly there (or conversly, good for practicing braces).

So, optimally, head north from Rt. 28 about two hours before local high tide (I can dig this up relative to Boston Harbor, if you like -there's a bit of a time delay relative to the entrance of the river because of the volume of water in the marsh) - that'll give you the current both ways, and you won't hang up on the shallows on the inside of the bends.

I'd estimate the max current is about 1 knot - there are some spots where it perhaps hits 2 knots, but there are only about 2 places where that happens - very isolated(I could tell you where, if you like).

If you do go against the current, you can play the game of hugging the inside of the bends "hidden" by the current and then cross the main current rapidly - zig-zagging your way up. Again, a great way to practice your edging.


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