Snake River in Massachusetts
The aptly-named Snake River is so beautiful that I'm amazed that it doesn't seem to be listed in any guidebook. It flows from Winnecunnet Pond in Norton to Sabbatia Lake in Taunton.
The Snake meanders with countless hairpin turns through the vast (over 16,000 acres) Hockomock Swamp. The river for the most part is smooth and dark, but the hue seems to come from silt, not pollution. At its mouth, it is pondlike and clear. Further upstream it sometimes becomes quite narrow, but relatively unobstructed. I only had a few minor tussles with brush on my upstream journey, none of which were arduous enough to elicit curses from me (it usually doesn't take much). There is also a spot where the banks are spanned by two girders, which probably once supported a footbridge. They are very low to the water, so you'll have to lie flat in your kayak or canoe in order to glide under them. You can also carry around them with little trouble.
The vegetation on the banks consists of shrubs and swamp maples, which must put on a brilliant show in the fall. Farther back are majestic old growth forests. I didn't see a lot of wildlife, but heard many birds singing.
The navigable section of the Snake is not very long. It closes up about 3/4 of the way from Taunton to Norton. If you put in on Lake Sabbatia, you'll get upstream and back in about three hours--a perfect length for a morning or afternoon trip. Paddling downstream was a breeze, and I sailed through the few places I had to pull myself through on the way upstream. I preceded my trip on the Snake with a paddle around the Lake.
The only drawback to this trip is that you are almost never out of earshot of Interstate 495, which the Snake crosses once, and parallels at a distance much of the time. This is a common feature, unfortunately, of many paddles in Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts, but the incredible scenery more than compensates for the traffic noise in my opinion, and the highway is rarely visible from the river. Since I tend to be a "glass is half full" kind of fellow, I'm actually impressed that there are so many places where semi-wilderness can exist side-by-side with man-made wonders such as superhighways.
There is a picnic area on Watson Pond just before the Sabbatia Lake landing, heading south on Bay Street.
To Sabbatia Lake: Take Route 495 to Exit 9. Take Bay Street south into Taunton. Shortly after you see Watson Pond on your right, the Sabbatia Lake boat landing will appear on your left.
To Field Street: Before Watson Pond, take a left off of Bay Street on to Field Street at the small cemetary on your left. The parking area, big enough for two or three cars, will be on your right.
Scaddings Street: Scaddings Street is the first right off of Field Street after the cemetary. If you come to the Field Street launch site, you've gone too far.
There are three very convenient places to put in. If you choose to launch from the Sabbatia Lake landing, stay to your left once you're on the lake, and you'll soon come to the inlet into which the Snake empties.
Other launch sites with clearly visible, but small, parking areas are on Scaddings Street and Field Street. The Scaddings Street bridge marks the confluence of the Snake River and Lake Sabbatia, and the Field Street bridge is a little farther upstream at the point where the river starts to narrow.
- Trip Duration: Day Trip
- Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
- Skill Level: Beginner
- Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)