North & South Rivers Watershed Association

NATURE: A Pontoon Boat Cruise on the North River

by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent

If you’re reading this article, you are probably aware of the North and South Rivers — two beautiful, healthy, tidal waterways whose watershed comprises much of the South Shore. Chances are, you’ve also spent some time there – perhaps by boat, or with a canoe, kayak or paddle board, or by walking in one of the numerous conservation areas that border them.

On the other hand, maybe you haven’t. Whether paddling trips and hikes aren’t your thing, or you have other reasons for not being able to access the rivers, I have good news to share with you. There’s another option! The North and South Rivers Watershed Association (NSRWA) now offers Pontoon Boat Cruises.

A pontoon boat is a motorized boat with a wide, flat deck, and plenty of room for upright seating. The deck is supported by two or three metal tubes (or pontoons), which provide flotation. While not the most aerodynamic, a pontoon boat moves quickly and deftly enough to provide a smooth, steady ride. The NSRWA’s boat – donated by a Marshfield family — has comfortable bench seats in both the sun and the shade, all with a terrific view. Plus there’s no climbing – from the dock, you walk straight on and off the vessel. This is a very different experience from a kayak or a canoe.

Throughout the boating season (late spring til mid-autumn) NSRWA offers pontoon boat cruises several times per month. Each includes a licensed boat captain and a tour guide. You can choose the “Nature and History” themed cruise or just “Nature.” “Fall Foliage” and “River Wildlife” are other options. You can also charter your own.

In August, I signed up for one of the Nature and History-themed cruises. After registering online, I received my instructions, so I knew exactly where to park and what to bring. At 10:00am, I met my captain, guide, and fellow participants at Roht Marine, on the North River, on the Marshfield-Scituate line (Route 3A). After a brief safety overview, we were off.

I already knew a fair amount about the history of the North and South Rivers, but on the tour, I learned quite a bit more! Our guide explained how our region has changed since the last ice age – and how the rivers were formed. He discussed the first European settlers in our area and the ways in which they interacted with the native tribes who had been here for years. He explained salt marsh haying, and packet ships, and gave an overview of the local shipbuilding industry. He also discussed the ecology of the salt marsh, and pointed out some of the wildlife that make their home there. We saw marsh wrens, red tail hawks and osprey, and kept an eye out for bald eagles (they nest nearby.) There were maps and other visual aids to enhance the presentation, plus we were encouraged to “Ask anything.”

After an hour moving steadily upstream through gorgeous landscapes, we reached the Route 3 Bridge in Pembroke. The captain turned the boat around, and for most of our journey back to the starting point, we were encouraged to admire the view. This led to casual conversations among the participants and plenty more insights from the guide.

The 2-hour tour was extremely enjoyable. Time passed quickly. I found myself wanting to return, soon, with various friends and family members, especially those who aren’t inclined to experience the rivers in other ways. A Pontoon Boat Cruise would be a lovely way to mark a special occasion – a birthday or anniversary, for example, or a retirement. At $50 per person (for NSRWA members, $75 for non-members) it’s a bit of an investment, but well worth the cost.

If you’re interested in joining a Pontoon Boat Cruise, there are a number of them coming up this fall – nearly every weekend through the end of October. Most go upriver through Marshfield and Norwell, but some go downstream to The Spit. Visit for details and to register.

Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to protecting our waters. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit To browse 20 years of nature columns, visit


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