by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent

Paddling season is here again! Are you ready to get out on the water? I am! Would you feel “more ready” if you had a better understanding of how the tides affect our local rivers? Come to one of our “Timing the Tides” presentations this summer at your local library. There’s one happening on August 7th in Cohasset.

Our coastal rivers offer numerous public launch spots for non-motorized boats. Below you’ll find some of my favorites – along with tips for where to start and end your trip, where to park, and the best time to go. This is not a comprehensive list. See last summer’s Top Paddling Itineraries for additional suggestions. We also list 100+ launch sites in the Paddling section of our Get Outdoors database.

When you go, be sure to always carry one personal flotation device (PFD) for each passenger. Check the forecast before you leave. It’s no fun trying to out-paddle a thunderstorm. Remember that wind plays just as much of a role as tide, and plan accordingly if there’s a stiff breeze. And if you’re staging a second vehicle, stage a second set of straps (or carry them with you) so you can secure your boat for the ride home!

If you enjoy the outdoors, be sure to check out “365 Nature Places to Know,” our Explore South Shore program for 2024. Every morning we highlight one of the region’s best nature places on Facebook and Instagram. Every Wednesday we feature a spot with water access. Not on social media? We’ve listed all the locations on our website as well!

Quick North River Jaunt

This route is great for those seeking a short-but-sweet paddling excursion. It is also suitable for stand-up paddleboards. Put your boat in the water at the Pembroke Town Forest at ocean high tide or within 1-2 hours after. Paddle upstream, past Fox Hill Shipyard and Third Herring Brook. Continue until you’re close enough to the Washington Street Bridge to see its bricks, but not close enough to pass underneath it. (Depending on the height and time of the tide, it can be tricky, if not impossible, to paddle against the current here.) Admire the historic bridge from a distance and then return downstream as the tide begins to recede. (2+ hours total)

South River kayaking

Exploring the South River’s Marsh Creeks

This out & back begins with a long carry from the parking lot to the water, but it’s totally worth it. An hour before ocean high tide, put your boat in the South River on the back side of Rexhame Beach in Marshfield, and head downstream. You’ll be paddling against the incoming tide, but just a short distance. On the far side of the river, look for Clapp Creek, which offers numerous opportunities for exploration. Another option is to head upstream, where a similar yet smaller network of creeks becomes accessible as you approach the first big bend in the river. Explore the creeks, then return to your starting place. (1-2 hours on the water)

Low & Slow on the North River

Stage a second vehicle at the Marshfield Launch at Union Street Bridge. Bring your boat to the Pembroke Town Forest on Brick Kiln Lane, and put it in the water 3 hours after the ocean high tide. Enjoy a one-way excursion to Marshfield with the receding tide, with views of Route 3, Blueberry Island and Couch Beach. Just after you round the bend downstream of Couch, begin looking for two ancient cedar platforms (85-95 feet in length) protruding from the marsh at water level. We believe these are the remains of a late 17th- to early or mid-18th-century corduroy road, used for salt-haying! Continue with the outgoing tide until you reach the Marshfield Public Launch where your vehicle awaits. (3 hours on the water)

Green Harbor River kayaking

Green Harbor River: A Versatile Out & Back

Begin at the public launch at Peter Igo Park in Marshfield (Brant Rock). Timing doesn’t matter much here; the tide gate at Route 139 helps water levels to remain consistent. Follow the main channel of the river upstream for about an hour to reach Mass Audubon’s Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the first of two wooden bridges spanning the river. Rest for a while under a bridge, and then return downstream to your starting place. Limited on-site parking at Peter Igo Park. (2-3 hours)

North River kayaking

Nearly All of the North River

Ready for a full day on the water? Stage a second vehicle at the Pembroke Town Forest on Brick Kiln Lane. Bring your boat to Driftway Conservation Park, and put in the water 3-4 hours before ocean high tide. Ride the rising tide up Herring River, turn upstream on the North River, continue past Damon’s Point and the Route 3A Bridge. Couch Beach is a great place to stretch your legs, as is Blueberry Island nearby. Continue upriver past Route 3. After a winding journey through serene marshes, you’ll pass Robinson Creek on your left, followed by a marker for the historic Brick Kiln Shipyard. The easy-to-miss egress to Pembroke Town Forest is right next door. (4-6 hours on the water)

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 You will also find 27+ years of Kezia’s Nature columns there. For more information about the Explore South Shore 2024 Challenge, visit