Starting point: Hemenway Road Landing, Eastham on Nauset Marsh
Landing Coordinates: 41 / 49′ 22.78″ N 69 / 57′ 53.35″ W
This paddle into Nauset Marsh towards Nauset Beach at the Atlantic Ocean is a distance of approximately 4 miles. The paddling conditions are flatwater, with quick moving currents, and in July and August a steady flow of small 12-14ft powerboats with 20 hp outboard engines. At launch, getting swept out (East) by an ebbing tide and returning (West) with the incoming tide is ideal, but can be difficult to plan. Even the most experienced Nauset Marsh paddler /boater gets fooled by the tidal water levels. Without advance notice, a ‘drainer’ may pull all the water of the marsh, and not return it at the time tide charts forecast.
To start the tour, launch from Hemenway Road Landing and move right (SE) for 150 yards. A mudflat extends from your right to the left gently directing the paddler into deeper water that must be shared with powerboaters. Cable Creek appears to your left (NE) and Skiff Hill Creek continues straight (S).
Coordinates locate: Confluence of Cable Creek (West entrance) and Skiff Hill Creek:
41 /49′ 21.99″ N 69 / 57′ 35.38″ W Elevation: -1 ft
This 1/4 mile stretch which leads to the ‘Starburst’ (aka: the middle of the marsh) powerful hydraulics during incoming tides push the paddler to the right (West) into shallow water and flats. Best to eddy across the strong flow, proceed up Cable Creek 50 ft before crossing to the left, into a line of lobster traps and the deep channel. Powerboats often use Cable Creek to come and go because of everlasting deep water. Powerboats have right-of-way, paddlers give way. The creek is bordered by cliffs of decayed organic material (detritus) (at low tide) and the dominant plant species is marsh cordgrass (Spartina). Detritus supports Ribbed Mussels, often covered by Barnacles, and secrete strong threads that bind individual mussels together in clusters. Many types of invertebrates and crabs burrow into the detritus bank create holes, small depressions.
At coordinates 41 / 49′ 31.72″ N 69 / 57’25.04″W
Cable Creek (East entrance) Elevation -3 ft
The marsh is a study in contrasts. At the east entrance/exit of Cable Creek, wide expanses of exposed sandbars appear to stop your progress. Remember, water is always moving within the marsh. Most deep water is located along the border fringes of abutting marsh detritus and grasses. Water level is critical in the Starburst, averages minus 1-2 ft below sea level. Paddlers can sweep left (N) towards Boat House channel and the Cedar Bank north sector of Nauset Marsh, or progress right (E) navigating the deep water alongside sloping sides of accreted sand bars and mud flats. The marsh fringe of detritus and deep(er) water channels offer a nutritious habitat for lobsters. Lobster traps marked by colorful buoys usually are placed in the deep, cooler water, look for buoys if you run into the shallows. It will be obvious that powerboats have right of way in the shallow, narrow, and rapidly moving ebb or flow of flatwater.
Paddling Cable Creek (heading E into the Starburst), moving right at the sandbars (at low tide), meander to coordinates:
At sea level, the water moves quickly (ebb or flow) from the center of the Starburst towards the inlet to the Atlantic Ocean (E). Big Bar, a series of long flat sandbars, lies to the right (S) if you are running East towards the barrier beach. Within 200 yards, the confluence of standing waves and rapids-like, restless water marks an impassable channel to your left (N) if you are a novice or even intermediate paddler. Access your abilities at this time. Larger commercial and recreational boats navigate this waterway constantly. Again, they have right of way when in the boat channel, which is most instances, is where the deep, passable water settles. The other option is to move left (S) and into the Beach Channel that parallels the local-only (taxpayer) side of Nauset Beach. Crossing the channel from Nauset Marsh to the barrier beach should be done with care, observing approaching boats and at what speed they are moving, and crossing together in a side-by-side line and not a line one-after-the-other. Access by paddlecraft to Nauset Beach is open to the public. Land and pull your craft high up the beach. Commercial boats throw off a wake that will grab your kayak or SUP and wash it off the beach.