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Assabet River in Massachusetts

Trip Overview

This river flows 31 mi. from the Assabet Reservoir in Westborough to the Concord & Sudbury Rivers in Concord. Once an industrial dumping ground, it has responded well to cleanup efforts and though not yet suitable for swimming, it makes for fine paddling. Along the way, we saw a grey heron, red-winged blackbirds, lots of painted turtles, and other birds I dont know of. Oh yeah, and cows too.

The section described here runs about 3 mi. as the crow flies upriver from downtown Hudson to behind the Solomon Pond Mall in Berlin. The numerous twists and turns must add quite a bit of distance. Despite the dense suburbia around it, the river is well hidden behind a substantial buffer of trees, brush, and marsh. You'd have no idea you were paddling alongside a shopping mall if you didn't already know better. In fact, there were times when my partner and I werent entirely sure ourselves.

From the put-in, turn right and paddle southeast upriver. You have no choice- there's a waterfall just 200 ft. behind you. I dont know if theres a safety barrier to keep from going over, but the current was of absolutely no concern the day we were there in June. Maybe after a wet spring, I suppose, but use your own judgment. Stay centered in the river to avoid a dead-end cove on your right, and then move toward the right bank to avoid another one on the left. The river soon passes by a municipal park and under a footbridge, and then turns right. Another dead-end cove comes up shortly while the main channel diverges around it to the right. My partner and I missed this at first and had to backtrack. After passing a softball field on the right, the houses and businesses of the downtown area fade away as the river narrows and the natural buffer takes over.

The river soon passes by a half-dozen or so piers about 2 ft. wide, 4 ft. long, and spaced evenly about 100 ft. apart on the left bank. They appear to have been made by pouring rocks into a wood frame anchored to the riverbed by tie rods, then tamped down with stone dust and gravel. They looked old and neglected, and I wondered what purpose theyd served. Were there once cottages here, each with its own access point? Needing a bio-break, I climbed onto one that was in better shape than the others. Standing up, I could see a gravel jogging path following the rivers edge. On the other side of the path a tree-covered embankment rose up, just barely hiding the industrial park behind it. I never would have known otherwise.

From here the river meanders through tree-lined marsh grasses and passes under the Chapin St. Bridge. There is a point where the channel gets split by a small tree and some rocks in the center, creating a pair of side-by-side riffles about 5 ft. long. The current was enough that my partner needed a second attempt, but all it took was a running start to push through.

About a half-mile from Chapin St., the river passes under 495. Noisy to be sure, but the pigeons dont seem to mind. A couple of turns later, we found ourselves alongside a cow pasture. A bull and his harem were having a siesta near the waters edge as we approached. I drifted over to take a picture, during which time the bull stood up and gave me the eye, in case I got any funny ideas.

About 15 min. later we though wed come to the end of our journey: A log lay across the river, a mere 2-3 inches above the surface with a sheet of water roughly 2 ft. wide pouring over its center. The brush on either side was too thick and there was no solid ground for a portage. Touching bottom with our paddles, we found the water to be about waist-high--too deep to make it worth wading in and climbing over. But with the right angle and enough momentum, the water pouring over the middle looked like it might provide just enough clearance to make it over. I made it on my second attempt. My partner needed a few more tries to get her boat over, but she finally got clear.

Barely 10 min. later, another log blocked our path, but this was easily portaged along the flat rocks to its left. Shortly after passing under Bridge St., we came to another portage, this time a rock blocked all but a foot or so on the right. I had heard of some folks making it all the way to the reservoir in Westborough, but this was enough for us. Maybe next spring well try it again when the waters higher.


There are a number of suitable landing areas along the way in case you need to get out and stretch.




I-495 to exit 26. Turn right & follow Rte.62 about 2 mi. to downtown Hudson. Just before the rotary, there is an entrance to a public parking area behind the fire station on your right. The put-in is at the corner of the pavement, down a small embankment.


  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)
  • Group Rates: No

Locations on this Trip