Ease Into Kayaking At These Beginner Spots
Are you a beginning paddler looking forward to exploring your local waterways for the first time? The Northeast offers a wealth of options. From quiet water to rapids, lakes to the ocean, this region has something for everyone, even the novice.
Mount Desert Island, Maine
About a mile long and 150 feet deep, Jordan Pond is one of the most popular spots on Mount Desert Island. Put in next to the Jordan Pond hiker parking area on Park Loop Road, and enjoy a leisurely lap of the pond. Take in the view of the Bubbles—two small mountains in the distance—and enjoy the birds, cliffs, and northern hardwood forest that surround the pond. Relax over tea and a popover at the Jordan Pond House once you’re done.
Distance: 2.5 miles round-trip
This isolated gem in central New Hampshire is just 235 acres, but features numerous rocky coves and islands to explore. Much of the land around the pond is now protected (camping is no longer allowed and boat motors are limited to 6 horsepower), though there are a few houses at the western end. Put in by the dam in the southwestern corner, and head north for a clockwise loop around the pond’s outer edge.
Distance: 3.5-mile loop
While the Deerfield River provides great paddling for whitewater aficionados of all levels, the run from the Route 2 bridge to the Deerfield #4 Dam offers a stretch of Class I and II rapids ideal for beginners. Put in at the Shunpike rest area and enjoy the run down to Buckland. Once you’ve mastered this stretch, test yourself on the Class III Zoar Gap, just north of your original put-in.
Distance: 8.5 miles
Info: Deerfield River Map and Guide
Take a meandering paddle through these salt marshes by putting in at the boat ramp off Seapowet Avenue. To create a 3-mile route you can piece together two out-and-back loops, one to the northeast and one to the southeast. This area is best explored during high tide as some stretches will become too shallow to paddle once the tide is out. While the nearby Seapowet River offers further options, novices should stick to the marshes to avoid the strong current.
Distance: 3 miles round-trip
There are numerous access points along the Saugatuck River, however one of the most convenient is the public launch in Westport, in the shadow of I-95. For a 3.5-mile round-trip, head south to the Route 1 bridge before reversing course. There will be plenty of boats heading in or out from Long Island Sound, though speeds are limited. Still, you may want to hug the shoreline to avoid their wake until you get farther upstream. Before heading out, you may want to check the tides; the Saugatuck is best enjoyed when the waters are high.
Distance: 3 miles round-trip
Info: www.ct.gov (search “Saugatuck River Boat Launch”)
East Hampton, N.Y.
This sheltered harbor off of Block Island Sound offers a peaceful entry into saltwater kayaking. Even at low tide you’ll be able to paddle through the plentiful grasses growing in the salt marshes. In total there are 8 miles of shoreline to explore, but an out-and-back trip to the harbor’s northern tip can be done in 3 miles. To extend your trip you can head over to the more heavily populated East Harbor.
Distance: 3 miles out-and-back
Located approximately 45 miles outside Philadelphia, Nockamixon State Park is a 5,300-acre jewel that features numerous recreational opportunities, including 27 miles of shoreline around Lake Nockamixon. Though the middle of the lake can be congested, put in at Haycock on the northern end (just off Route 563) and paddle farther north—away from the crowds—or south toward the dam. Either way will provide a quiet 2-mile trip. For a longer option, head south and paddle out into the heart of the lake.
Distance: 2 miles out-and-back
Courtesy of the Appalachian Mountain Club