We kayaked the Mashpee River the other day with a close friend, and knew we’d found a small piece of paradise.
Thanks to a century of conservation efforts, this Cape Cod river remains unusually pristine. It offers abundant bird life and many vistas for kayakers and nature lovers to enjoy.
Once your kayak has passed the vacation homes and mooring fields, ten minutes or so beyond Pirate’s Cove, the shorelines are undeveloped — no houses to be seen until you return to Pirate’s Cove.
You will see wetlands and woodlands that remain quite untouched — much as they used to appear to Wampanoag tribe members, the original natives of this region. (History buffs will remember that the Pilgrims encountered many Wampanoag Indians during their early years in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, including famous chiefs such as Squanto and Massasoit.)
The Mashpee River cuts through tribal lands, marshes and woodlands protected by conservationists since 1915. Sea-run brook trout spawn here. We saw crabs swimming past us.
This tidal river is a special place to kayak because of the way it moves through a variety of ecosystems. From the kayaker’s POV your paddle takes you from salt water to brackish water and finally to clear fresh water at the river’s head (not far from Route 28 and Quinaquisset Ave.) And then back down the river again to Pirate’s Cove, and the winds and waves of Popponesset Bay.
During the two hours we kayaked this river, we saw many birds, including:
- Bald eagles — although common to our Seattle home, this was our first sighting of bald eagles in Massachusetts
- Green herons
- Great blue herons
- Great egrets and snowy egrets
- Sea gulls
- Red-winged blackbirds
It is a tidal river, and summer winds here can be strong. Experienced kayakers should anticipate a one-hour expedition — and more likely two hours, if you stop to enjoy the bird life or listen to the wind soughing through the marsh grass.
Pack enough water or snacks — there are no amenities along this river, other than what nature provides. And leave nothing behind, so the river remains clean for future kayakers and nature lovers to enjoy.