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Branford River and Harbor

Trip Overview

High tide at 10:50 AM. Got in the water by 10:17 and paddled up the river .8 mile past several marinas and past the Stony Creek Brewery that looked like a good place to go for lunch and a brew after paddling, and under the Indian Neck bridge where we had to scrunch down to slip under, then through a wide section of the river for.4 mile where we saw three well groomed horses grazing within 50 feet of the shore. Just past that we had to squeeze under another very low bridge at Montoweese St. as the incoming tide pushed us up the river - there was less than 3 feet of clearance. The river turned sharply to the left where we passed under the Metro North line. A few hundred feet later the river narrowed dramatically from 200+ feet to 35 feet through what was an old bridge that was torn down decades ago and the current picked up - the GPS showed my speed at nearly 8 mph. 300 feet later we went under Pine Orchard Road where the current was not quite as swift, but it looked like it was dropping over a concrete barrier because of the current swirling around the abutments. For the next 1.3 miles the river meandered generally NNE through low marshes where we saw dozens of osprey including five nests with adults sitting on them. One was high on a light pole over the Branford High School football field. A 1/4 mile past the school ball fields the river turns 100 degrees to the right, with Pisgah Brook to the left, and continues to narrow as it passes out of the marshes and into a canopied woods an the south side of Rt. 1. We hooked around the Hornet's Nest Deli and under Rt. 1, going 180 degrees to the left around the substation where the entire ecosystem changes to banks covered with loosestrife and other flowering bushes and aquatic blooms. A this point the river is less than 20 feet wide and turns sharply right with a heavy canopy of trees into the 120 foot tunnel under I-95. We hit the end of the navigable part of the river just past high, slack tide, so under any circumstances you couldn't get much further up the river. On the way back downriver we now had the benefit of the outgoing tide, if only slightly. We decided to explore Pisgah Brook, so we headed up the 15-20 foot wide creek for at least a 1/4 mile through 8+ foot high phragmites until we got to a spot where it got so narrow that we stopped at a spot where a small tributary allowed us to turn around, always a concern with an 18' boat. Next we poked into the marsh behind the High School, but you can only go in 500 feet or so. More osprey flew overhead, two proudly displaying their newly caught fish, and there were great egrets, snowy egrets, yellow-crowned night herons, sandpipers, ruddy turnstones, blackbirds, gnatcatchers, etc., etc. along the way. We passed under the four remaining bridges again, but the water level was slightly lower, so it required less bending. Also, we were able to catch a nice push from the outgoing tide through the narrower spots. We had planned on going up the brook just NW of the boat launch under Harbor Street, but it was being worked on, so it was blocked off with metal sheets. Maybe next time. Back at the launch at 1:00 or so after 7.5 miles of paddling. We stretched and sat on the dock to have something to eat and drink, then took off downriver, headed for the sound. We got less than a 1/4 mile when a CG boat pulled us over and demanded that they inspect our boats and safety equipment. We were fine with it until they made us wait several minutes while they flagged down a group of paddle boarders, then wrote us all up, asking information on our boats, our addresses, phone numbers, made us blow our whistles and lectured us on very detailed safety requirements; even issued me a warning citation for not having my whistle with me. It took over 30 minutes to get out of there. Finally got underway and cruised past several more large marinas, and about a mile from the boat launch we passed Branford Point and entered the harbor. We turned east around Indian Neck Point and then around Jeffrey Rock to Clam Island, continuing on into the sound where the wind had picked up and the waves were 2+ feet, rolling in from the SSE. I headed in between Clam and Sumac Islands to check out the cove and wanted to go swimming, so we spotted a small rocky, sandy shoal called Sedge Island, an ambitious name for a 100' plot that is underwater at high tide. We swam in the refreshingly cool water, then dried off in the sun and headed around Sumac Island where there is an impressive 4500-5000 S.F. white house with attached gazebo and a small guest cottage on 3/4 acre of nicely landscaped lawn. At this point we were only 2 1/2 miles west of the Thimble Islands. Out in the sound the waves were hitting us on the beam as we paddled out to Taunton Rock, the farthest large rock outcropping in Branford Harbor. We rounded Taunton Rock and headed back toward the river with the waves now trailing and pushing us all around. Indian Neck itself is a gorgeous outcropping that looks like stacked up building blocks. As we headed up into the river we passed the CG boat again at the first marina writing up another group of paddleboarders - we swung way wide to the other side of the river. Got a little bit disoriented working our way to the left and up through the miriad slips of the sprawling marinas, but David was like a stable nag at this point and determined to get back as quickly as possible. Came in around 3:45 PM within an hour of low tide. Launch was a little muddy at the very bottom, but not bad at all.
  • Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking
  • Skill Level: Beginner, Intermediate
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water, Open Water/Ocean
Eddyline Falcon S18 Wilderness Systems Tempest 16.5 L.L. Bean 14'

Locations on this Trip