Paddling the Concord River in Massachusetts

Thank you so much to reader, Jared, who after reading my last article of off-season paddling on Great Marsh, asked for some more trip ideas. This one should work for Jared and anyone else in New England who wants to extend the paddling season while enjoying some history in addition to natural wonder.

For many paddlers, this cool weather has marked the end of the boating season. It shouldn’t. New England is packed with awesome reaches on which to drop a boat well into winter. Most notably of these is the Concord River in Massachusetts – the sight of first battle of the American Revolution and the shot heard around the world. Flowing East just sixteen miles from Northwest Boston, the Concord offers late-season paddlers plenty of mellow water sheltered from wind by towering oaks, willows, and birch. The water is cold so you’ll definitely want to take extra care on your trip but the calm conditions and proximity to shore are such that a drysuit is not required but a good pair of paddling gloves is a VERY nice thing to have.

Approaching the Old North Bridge on the Concord River.

Trading traditional New England landscapes for a trip through history makes for some seriously awesome paddling this time of year. For a short trip upriver to the bridge made famous by Longfellow’s poem, Concord Hymn, put in from the public launch off Lowell Road. From there it’s a short, quarter-mile trip past bronze flood plains to the Old North Bridge, where Minute Men and British Soldiers first met in battle.

The Old North Bridge, with my canoe landed nearby.

Located in Minute Man National Park, Old North Bridge is a stunningly preserved/refurbished piece of history. Arching high over the water, to see it from a kayak or canoe is to enjoy a vantage not shared by thousands of others who visit the park each year. Making things even better, landing on either shore is permissible and offers quick, easy access to cross the bridge without the hassle of lines and a crowded parking lot.

A Farmer-Soldier, atop the votive stone at Minute Man National Park. The beginning of Longfellow’s Concord Hymn, “The Shot Heard Around the World.”

When you’re paddling the Concord River, you can extend the trip by traveling downriver a mile or so, under an old stone bridge and through Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. For such a suburban location, the quiet and solitude is surprising. Undeveloped shores lined with tall grasses, scraggly old trees, and leaning willows lead into the town of Carlisle and beyond to Little Meadow Conservation Area. With a current gentle enough to paddle against on the return trip, a trek downriver will provide a great day out on the water, enjoying some history and New England November beauty.

Paddling through Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord, MA.