Active Outdoors: Lakes, ponds and rivers playgrounds for paddlers

  • ABOVE: New England has 6,130 miles of tidal shoreline, every foot of it a potential new spot for paddlers to explore. BELOW: Canoe or kayak makes no difference, getting out on flowing water is a great way to start your paddling season. TIM JONES photos /

  • Canoe or kayak makes no difference, getting out on flowing water is a great way to start your paddling season. TIM JONES /

  • Summer’s coming and with it a chance to enjoy memorable sunrise and sunset paddles. TIM JONES /

For the Monitor
Published: 5/12/2019 5:38:02 PM

Some of us (the crazy ones?) have been paddling our canoes and kayaks on flowing water for a month or more already. Most ponds and lakes (at least up north where I live) were still under ice at that point.

My first water trek of the year was on the Ossipee River in Hiram, Maine on March 30 with a group of paddlers from the Penobscot Paddle and Chowder Society, a truly inspired group of paddle fanatics and chowder lovers. The water was low as it hadn’t rained for some time and the snowmelt hadn’t really started yet. We had to drag our boats over deep snow to reach the water. Needless to say, we had a great time.

I’ve been paddling every chance I get since then (14 trips and counting as you read this). On one of those trips, I was the youngest paddler there – so whitewater isn’t just a sport for the young and foolish. Old and foolish qualifies, too.

Now that the snow is finally gone, my bikes are calling to me more and more. The hiking trails here in the White Mountains have been pretty much a muddy mess and the bare-ground hiking season is really just getting started. So paddling on rivers has been my “out.”

But for most people, paddling season is either just getting started or still a couple of weeks away. That’s okay, paddling in early spring is pretty much for fanatics only, as it requires both special skills and special gear for cold-water protection.

What kind of paddling do you like best? One of the things I love about New England is the abundance and variety of waterways we have to explore. I would be very surprised if there’s a single town anywhere in New England that doesn’t have at least one pond that could be explored by kayak, canoe or Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP). The total number must run well into the thousands. Think of all those opportunities. I have at least a dozen ponds within a few miles of my house – I’ll bet you do, too

Most of our cities were built on rivers where flowing water provided the power that built the mills and drew the people. Now that the most of the mills and many of the dams that contained them are gone, the rivers are playgrounds once again. My goal for this summer is to section-paddle all 410 miles of the Connecticut River from the source to the sea, going out for a couple of days each time. What’s your goal? Have you paddled on your local river? If not, why not?

New England is also blessed with big lakes from Candlewood in Connecticut to the Quabbin in Mass, to Champlain, Morey, Willoughby, Bomoseen and Memphremagog in Vermont to Sunapee, Squam, Newfound, First Connecticut and Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire and Sebago and Moosehead in Maine. Personally, I like lakes best very, very early on summer mornings before the powerboat traffic gets going. I’ll often launch in the pre-dawn darkness, paddle for a couple of hours while watching the sunrise, and be back at my car before the heat and boat wakes start to build.

Unless you live in darkest Vermont, the ocean is less than two hours from almost anywhere in New England. In total, there are 6,130 miles of tidal shoreline in New England – and almost every inch of it is paddling paradise (at least at high tide).

Why not get out and do some paddling this summer? It’s the perfect excuse to enjoy the outdoors in New England. Life isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and enjoy.

Paddling resources

I’ve spent a great deal of time gathering and updating information on paddling around the northeast. Using these resources should save you some time and make getting on the water easier:

Whitewater Paddling

River Paddling

Lake and Ocean Kayaking

SUP Paddling

(Tim Jones can be reached at

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