by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent

I’m so excited to share this news! Thanks to the combined efforts of the Town of Marshfield, Goodwill Hunters, and the North & South Rivers Watershed Association, there is a new launch site for canoes, kayaks, SUPs and other small boats on the South River. Until this spring, those who wanted to paddle the upper navigable portion of the South River had to risk such challenges as steep inclines, unsure footing, and poison ivy. But not anymore! This is a prime example of our Community Preservation funds being put to good use.

Many are unaware that the South River originates deep in Duxbury. Its source is in the Round Pond area, and from there it winds unobtrusively through the woods for several miles. Although one can view it from Route 3, and also from both the South River Bogs and Camp Wing conservation areas, it remains a narrow and mostly un-navigable stream until it makes its first “public” appearance at Veterans Memorial Park in Marshfield. From there it flows under Route 3A, through South River Park, and behind the playground of South River School, emerging again at Willow Street. But due to fences, dense vegetation, traffic, and general navigability none of these are ideal places to access the river by boat.

Just downstream from Willow Street, however, is the Francis Keville Footbridge, the location of the South River’s new boat launch. This is the upstream addition we river enthusiasts have been hoping for! Finally, there is relatively easy access to this portion of the river!

The Keville Footbridge was constructed in 2001. You can get there via a 0.15-mile path that extends behind the CVS on Ocean Street, as well as a 0.25-mile trail that originates on South River Street. Both access points are along a de-commissioned section of the Old Colony Railroad. Paddlers should be aware that launching a boat here requires carrying it first – a bit of a distance. It’s worth it, though!

There is a gate in the middle of the bridge that opens onto a tall metal ramp. The ramp is steep, but it has railings and a non-slip walkway… and it is wide enough to accommodate a person carrying a kayak. The ramp leads down to a wooden float, which sits on the water’s surface.

Once you get your boat on the water, you are in for a treat. This is a quiet section of the river – bordered on both sides by salt marsh. Those familiar with the lower portion of South River at Humarock and Rexhame will find this section to have significantly less traffic. Especially in the summer, when the reeds have grown tall, it’s hard to believe that civilization is close-by. You’re likely to see all sorts of wildlife – turtles sunning, river otters playing, any number of fish and fowl going about their daily routines.

After passing through the center of Marshfield, the river tucks back into the marshes. One can view it remotely from various locations along South River Street, and in the Southport and Rexhame neighborhoods. Downstream from there, it completely changes character. Its final three miles, along the barrier beach of Humarock, are very much out-in-the-open.

One of the many nice things about the lower portion of the South River is that it is wide and deep enough to be navigable at any tide. The upper portion is another story. You can still launch a canoe or kayak from the Keville Bridge at low tide, but you are likely to encounter some obstacles as you proceed. (With a SUP, you should be able to glide around or over even the shallowest sections). I was surprised to discover, on a recent excursion, that the upper portion of the South River has a number of sandbars!

Thus, be sure to consult a tide chart before you go, and bear in mind that when it’s high tide at the ocean, it will be another 3-4 hours before it’s high tide at the Keville Bridge. The height of the tide itself, and the amount of rainfall in the days and weeks prior, also affect water level. Unlike other sections of the river, it’s hard to know with much certainty how much water there will be at a given time. But that’s part of the adventure, right?

Another important thing to bear in mind: the Town of Marshfield is still fine-tuning the wooden float at the new launch site. At present, it sits rather high on the water (probably to accommodate the very heavy metal ramp). Getting into and out of your vessel could present an unexpected challenge. That said, the river is shallow enough – at least at lower tides – that you can easily stand in the water beside the float. The Town of Marshfield hopes to have this situation remedied soon.

Even if you’re not interested in launching a boat from the Keville Bridge, it’s worth visiting. Goodwill Hunters (who also provided funding) has installed a granite bench at the water’s edge – a tribute to the late Drew and Anjuli Hunter  –  and the view from there is really something. The organization is a big supporter of river access. (Watch for its annual Duck Derby this fall!) In addition, there are efforts underway to post signs and construct an informational kiosk along the trail behind CVS. There have also been murmurs of PFDs and wheeling mechanisms being available to lend across the street at Levitate.

A Note About Parking: At present the town advises that you drop off your boat or board at the trailhead behind CVS, and then move your car across the street to the municipal lot next to Levitate. In the future, they are hopeful that parking will be available closer to the launch.

Upcoming Event: Let NSRWA show you how to navigate the new South River kayak/canoe launch! Join us for a paddling trip on Thursday July 13th from 5-7pm. Registration and proof of insurance is required. Register here.


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