your paddlesports destination

Parker River (above Crane Pond) in Massachusetts

Trip Overview

I set out on the first of three planned trips on the Parker River from what I understand to be its first navigable waters in Byfield, Mass. and will eventually follow it down to its mouth in the Plum Island sound. Today was the first of those trips. I put-in in a small pool on the north side of Thurlow Street and headed down stream. I took my 12 foot Radisson, a conventional paddle and a 230cm paddle that I use in my kayak. I also dragged along an anchor and some fishing gear. It was hot, just past midday and it had rained substantially for the two days prior. I am a very new paddler. This was my first "river" trip and I was concerned that the current would be too much for me. I was actually planning on going upstream and floating back down when I was done but the "best laid plans..."

I had looked on a map prior to the beginning of my trip and knew that the way was windy but I was unprepared for the narrow, twisty nature of the river. Never much wider than my Radisson was long, and mostly half that wide, the Crane was an odd mix of deep pools and shallow bars. There was no overhanging vegetation to foul my double-blade (or provide shade) but the way was simply too narrow and winding to employ it efficiently. I single-baded all the way down. There was surprisingly little to look at and although I tried to troll my Rapella and cast into some of the bends and pools, I came up very short on fish. In fact, I caught none.

After a while I came across a man in a short, stout kayak heading back upriver. I was backwards in the stream trying to fish a bend-pool that I had just passed through when he came upon me and somehow snuck past my double-wide canoe. He warned me that the way was twisty but the current slow, even though we had had a lot of rain. He said that the water was lower than he had expected based on his past experiences on this stretch of the river. He warned me that I would not be able to get over the beaver dam and into the pond. It seems that he jumped it in the kayak but there would be no way to portage the canoe past it.

After a while the river opened up to the point that I could paddle efficiently down it and it seemed to be holding deeper waters. I passed a beaver hut and was prepared to find the dam. I passed another beaver hut and was prepared to find the dam. I passed a third beaver hut and was convinced that they were all abandoned. Until I rounded the next bend.

Friends, you probably have more skills paddling that I do. In fact Ill bet on it. You probably know more about portage and lining and jumping kayaks that I do too. I wish I had some of your skills and knowledge because I paddled around the next corner and there it was: the impregnable Beaver Dam. It soared a majestic three inches out of the water. It might as well have been a meter. I was stuck. I tried to jump it. I tried to ram it. I tried to ease it aside with my paddle. It was no use. There was no where to take out. There was no where to go around. There was no where to go but back. So, back I went.

I found the slight current annoying. It added to the annoyance of having to turn back at such a small obstacle within feet of my prize. It added to the annoyance of having to make dozens of switch-backs and negotiate scores of oxbows. It added to the annoyance of getting my "floating" Rapella fouled on weeds, lily pads and swamp grass. It added to the annoyance of the heat and the sun. I wanted to complete this adventure as soon as possible. I switched to the double blade!

I got upstream with that paddle much better than down. I used it to shove. push. pry. dray. power and brace myself through the twists and turns. I continued to catch no fish. With all the ruckus I was making, I cant say that Im suppressed. I got back to the pool and took-out where I had put-in. I was tired and sunburned but I had seen a small bit of wilderness in the middle of suburban Boston. Next time I will attempt Crane Pond from downstream.

I rate this as moderate difficulty ONLY because of the slow. narrow, twisty nature of the paddle.


on and off street parking for a few vehicles.




Rt. 95 to exit 55 (Central St.)towards Byfield.

Go left at the "T" intersection and take the 9th right onto Thulow Street.

Put-in is about a mile up on the right.

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

Locations on this Trip