Canoeing on the North River.

(This article was originally published in September 2012. It was inadvertently left out of this blog.)

In mid-September, a high school friend was visiting from California. In planning her visit, she asked if we could go canoeing on the North River. I peeked at my calendar and was delighted to see that for the first time in at least seven years, this was actually possible for us. So we made our plan.

While I was looking forward to the canoeing itself, I was dreading the process of getting to and from the river: hauling my canoe up from the back yard; sorting through dust- (and mold) covered storage bins for straps, foam pads and other transport essentials; hoisting the boat onto my car and securing it sufficiently for the eight mile trip across town. Our time was limited. Wouldn’t it be better spent on the water?
And then I remembered a little wooden sign I’d seen, time and again, on Route 123 in Norwell. At Bulman Marine (you may remember it as King’s Landing), there were canoes and kayaks for rent – for full or half-days. A quick phone call confirmed that this was still the case, and suddenly we were looking forward to a most pleasant day on the North River, without any hassle.
The man on the phone explained to me how it worked. “It’s self-service,” he said. “Look for the box near the door of the main building. Posted next to it, you’ll find directions.” It’s $30 for a half-day and $50 for a full day. Cash or check.” Simple.
Indeed, upon arrival, we found a mailbox mounted on the outside of the building. In it were envelopes and release forms (one per person). We filled out the forms, added our payment, and dropped the sealed envelope through the mail slot. Next up: selecting our canoe.
This was easy. We only saw one. Plus quite an assortment of single and double occupancy kayaks. (Note: there is more than one canoe on site. The green ones are the rentals.)
We carried our boat toward the ramp, loaded our own gear (coolers and chairs for our picnic lunch, plus a dry bag containing our keys, IDs and phones), and then headed to the shed for paddles and personal flotation devices (PFDs). We slid the canoe down the ramp, hopped in, and pushed off.
It was nearing high tide on the North River that day, so we were able to ride the current upstream. Our destination was Couch Beach in North Marshfield, about an hour’s paddle, unless we encountered some wind. We did. But it was such a sunny, warm, and lovely day on the water, we didn’t mind. Not having seen each other for more a year, we had plenty to talk about.
In due time, we reached our beach. After hauling the canoe away from the high water line, we climbed up the embankment and unfolded our beach chairs at the edge of the pine forest. What a view! Before us was a panorama of marsh grass and sky, with the river in the foreground . . . one of my all-time favorite settings. We had a leisurely lunch, enjoying the novelty of being able just to chill out. And when we were sufficiently fed and rested, we headed back downstream.
This time the wind was at our backs. We returned to the marina in half the time. All that was left to do was paddle up a small creek to the ramp, and pull the boat out of the water. Simple enough.
When we departed, there was a lot of water in the creek. When we returned, not so much. But it was still navigable. I steered us wrong and we ended up in the mud about halfway up the creek, so we shoved off and tried again. This time we got much farther in.
My friend was in the bow. She leapt out of the boat to pull us to dry land, but then something went wrong. The river bottom was unexpectedly soft. The mud did not support her. She sank up to her knees, stumbling forward into the water and tipping the boat over in the process. I jumped out to right the boat and I too sank in the mud.
We pushed the boat up onto the ramp, but by then we’d each sunken in up to our thighs. This was getting scary. I could barely pull my feet up from the mud. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I just kept scrambling toward shore. Eventually I was out, and my friend was right behind me – both of us soaked and completely covered in black mud.
We tipped the canoe again so we could get the water out, and then carried it up next to the shed, where there was a hose. After rinsing ourselves off, we cleaned out the boat as best we could, and put it back where we found it. It was then that we noticed the float, and dock, just a few feet farther downstream. Oh!
It turns out, we could have exited there, and not through the mud. Duly noted. It also turns out that the sign on the door (with the rules) happens to mention this at the bottom. It reads, “Do not launch or disembark in launch ramp at low tide. Mud is deep and messy. “ It wasn’t low tide – just mid-tide for us. But, oops! Now we know.
There definitely will be a next time. I’m not ruling out the use of my own canoe, but when time is tight and convenience is a factor (and the tides are working in our favor), renting from Bulman Marine is an appealing option. Here’s the rundown.
The rentals are first-come first served. On the phone, they told me it would be $30 to use a canoe for a half day, and $50 for a full day. But then the sign read $40 for a canoe rental, so that’s what we left in our envelope. According to the sign on the door, single kayaks are $30 and double kayaks are $40. PFDs and paddles, which are included, are stored in a nearby shed. For more information, call 781-659-7273.
by Kezia Bacon
September 2012
Kezia Bacon’s articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit