A friend and I recently took a tandem kayak on a couple of day trips out to Lake Quinsigamond, a large lake on the border between Worcester and Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. The lake is very long and rather narrow, so it has the appearance of a river. The waters are generally very calm, but it is a popular weekend destination, so watch out for faster-moving boats.
We initially tried to launch at the start park on North Lake Ave in Worcester (just north of Route 9/Belmont St) but a lifeguard came over and told us that boats aren't allowed to launch at the state park. This was unwelcome news, as we had already started to untie the boat (a 10 minute job) when the guard came over, and this information wasn't posted anywhere that we could see. Save yourself the trouble and drive up to the boat launch on North Lake Ave.
We were able to back the car up to within a couple feet of the water's edge, which made it easy to put the boat in the waters. We started our journey heading south, back along Lake Ave. Our first stop was the state park beach, which we were denied from using earlier. This beach offers a protected swimming area, picnic tables, grills, and bathrooms. We stopped, ate a quick snack, and left.
Not long after that, we crossed under the Route 9 bridge, which is approximately the midpoint of the lake. After that it's another 40 minutes or so of easy paddling before you come to the south end of the lake. This area is wider and contains several small islands. Most of the islands are public land, but one is private, with several "No Trespassing" signs, so be careful if you go island-hopping. We stopped at a couple of them (one actually had what looked like the remains of a fire-damaged house) before the skies started to darken and we had to leave. This was the only disappointing part about the trip; since the launch is at the north end of the lake, it's a hard paddle north if you have to leave the islands in a hurry.
The north end of the lake is dominated by the I-290 bridge, which carries six lanes of highway traffic about 50 feet above the water. Many local rowing clubs have decorated the pylons with their logos.
The state park offers free swimming, picnic/grilling areas, and bathrooms. I think parking is also free. At the boat launch, there's free on-street parking and a dirt lot across the street from the ramp.
No fees required to paddle around the lake.
From Route 9 West: cross the bridge and turn right onto North Lake Ave. Drive north (drive slow through the narrow section) until you get to a Y split. Bear right to continue on North Lake Ave; left will take you out to Plantation Street in Worcester. The boat launch is about a minute down the road from the Y split.
From I-290 Exit 22 Main St/Shrewsbury: take Main St west into the city. Turn left onto North Lake Ave. Follow the street down to the boat ramp on the left.