Ipswich River Massachusetts

by  Sitinotna
  • Final Dam Portage Path

    Final Dam Portage Path

A self-supported trip created by Sitinotna

Trip Overview

In March of 2020 I canoed 100% of the Ipswich River, that is from Woburn St, Wilmington to the Atlantic Ocean in Ipswich, approximately 35 miles. No rapids, mostly flatwater and some quickwater.

The beginning of the trip had many large trees across the river. These had to be lifted over and carried around. There were also a few low bridges in which we had to lie down in the canoe. In High water the logs might be covered but the bridges would need portages. I would recommend putting in a little further downstream than Woburn St. The Ipswich River Watershed Association recommends putting in on the Mill St Bridge in Reading/North Reading.

After that, the only obstructions are 3 dams spread out over the next 30 miles. The first two have easy portages. The last dam has a portage route shown in the attached picture and described in the 'Portage Notes' section. The portage is around 1000ft on flat ground so It's really not bad. It took my brother and I 20 minutes taking 2 trips but we had to find the route. When approaching the dam in Ipswich keep right and take out into the park just before the house on the right bank. One could if desired end the trip here, taking out in the park. I however, recommend continuing past the dam and going to the ocean because it gives you new scenery and if one desired they could easily continue paddling Plum Island sound all the way to Salisbury Beach. After the last dam the Ipswich river is tidal but is very sheltered even at the mouth because of Plum Island. Thus in fair weather there are no big waves. One should watch the weather and check the tides but if the weather is known to be good I still consider this a beginner trip. I finished the trip veering left coming out of the mouth to Pavilion Beach where I took out.

Overall the Ipswich is a very beautiful river and I consider it one of the best rivers in the vicinity of Northeast Mass. There is a wide range of scenery from a narrow meandering stream to a forest environment to the huge Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary to the salt marshes at the mouth. Most canoeable rivers I have paddled only have two of these things. Also in the Wildlife Sanctuary the Mass Audubon Society allows camping for members on Perkins island on the river there.

I highly recommend the Ipswich river to beginners and more experienced paddlers as it allows a great trip close to home for a great many.

*The Ipswich River Watershed Association has a very detailed free online map on their website: https://www.ipswichriver.org/p...

You can also get a hard copy from them for $10

Safety Notes

No Rapids

Portage Notes

Not including the trees or possibly bridges at the beginning. There are 3 dams on the Ipswich river. The first two have easy portages. The attached picture shows the last portage well. For the last dam, when approaching the dam in Ipswich keep right and take out into the park just before the house on the right bank. Then carry through the little path(5-10ft) through the trees into the park then turn left and carry through the park to the road, turn left onto the sidewalk until you see a red brick walkway to the walking bridge over the river. Carry over the walking bridge into the parking lot on the other side then turn right and go along the river. Finally turn left and go to the space in the fence and then enter the river down the hill on your right.

Trip Details

  • Trip Dates: 3/24/2020-3/25/2020
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing, Kayak Fishing
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: Flat/Sheltered Water
  • Number of Portages: 3

Trip Location