Posted by: ecckayak | March 24, 2011

Big Pleasant Bay – Birding

I journal during the summer, and then attempt to articulate those thoughts, feelings, and observations during the winter months in this blog. And, I can tell you that after countless hours paddling on Pleasant Bay, paddling is no way to get anywhere quickly, neither is writing a blog.  Aside from the occasional burst of speed, creativity, I tend to paddle with a long glide, relaxed stroke, and observe what’s around.

Just like my writing, my mind wanders while paddling too.  Thoughts turn to whatever is on the water, along the shoreline, or across the horizon.  Most likely, I will continue to drift towards the Leary/Ginsberg 60’s slogan “Tune in, Turn on, Drop out”.

Yet, on a whole, I still tend to be pre-occupied with reaching distant places, whether it an island, barrier beach spit, or exposed sandbar. The process, to me, is a workout of mind, body, and spirit. I find myself paddling slowly, past what I saw yesterday. Past the same shoreline, day in and day out – and surprisingly, it looks and feels different each time.

I rarely, if ever, paddle alone. It’s just the way it is. I may be one of the most experienced paddlers around these parts, yet, even when I’m wrapped amongst paddling partners, the solitude of the moment creates isolation. Essentially, we are floating islands, paddling along, only occasionally sharing conversation.

During this mid-week outing, the freshness of the morning rain turned to steady drizzle falling straight into the smooth waters of the bay.  As we leave the beach at Tar Kiln Creek, Rte 28, South Orleans, heading NE across the mouth of Quanset Pond, than E towards the gap of The Narrows, a Common Loon dives and reappears before us.  One of the kayakers, a birder in our group, tries a creditable loon call in an effort to invoke a response.  No luck, it’s too busy fishing as the ebb tide carries us easily along the leeward shores of Pleasant Bay into a heavy mist hanging from the sky.

“Fraunk, fraunk”, a Great Blue Heron is surprised and rises from it perch atop the granite groin through a curtain of mist and flaps along to the next cove.  The art of paddling is not to disturb these lovely pre-historic relics. We approach it once more, and it takes flight to the next vantage point, but doesn’t squawk! We have no choice but to follow its flight plan, and continue to follow it for half a mile, until it finally stands still as we paddle past.

The message, the experience of viewing such wonderful natural resources requires us to slow our pace while on the water trail. If you don’t, you will miss the swooping flight pattern of the Kingfisher. The Kingfisher has become a value in itself, one enjoyed particularly by paddlers.  On this day, we first hear its solitary, distinctive rattle. Through the fog, we look, silently, into the lower levels of the cloud cover, we know the Kingfisher is perched above the water, hovering in readiness for that dramatic plunge into the salt water to spear a ‘silver side’, but we can’t see its silhouette yet. Looking into nothing but fog is surreal. And the feeling of searching to focus on the lonely Kingfisher helps reverse the rush of our twenty-first century culture.  It teaches us that “slow is beautiful”.  Well, maybe the Kingfisher isn’t a good example of slow and steady, but its presence allowed us to stop for a moment to enjoy the aerial show nonetheless.

The drizzle is letting up and the fog is lifting as we head back from Strong Island.  That signals that the tide has changed, The tide has swung, allowing us to flow effortlessly inland.  A piercing, repeated “wheep, wheep”, announces the presence of the American Oystercatcher.  Sure enough, there is a group of large, chunky birds on the shores of Little Sipson’s Island picking through the seaweed in the intertidal zone with their long, chisel-tipped red bills. Expressions of satisfaction and accomplishment spread over us.  It seems to me that this style of birdwatching – adventure touring – is small scale, decentralized, and low-impact.  I will also suggest birdwatching from a kayak is going to reshape coastal ecotourism on Cape Cod as more information gets into the hands of birders, paddlers, and locals alike.

Later, sitting around our kayaks at the landing and talking over the trip, the group put together a report of the many different sightings.  We also reflect on our good fortune of living on the doorstep of such revitalizing experiences.  As one of the paddlers in our group said “if you live on Cape Cod and want to paddle in this area, you might as well start training to be a bird-watcher too.”  It’s not like you can avoid it.

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Posted by: ecckayak | March 21, 2011

With a cool March wind from the North

Stage Harbor – Chatham

The change is subtle.  One moment the world is full of historic homes and quaint Main Street inns with their overlapping rows of thin pieces of white cedar shingles that offer a handsome, silvery sheen on sides and atop roofs.  Then, as we arrive to our launching area on the Oyster Pond River, across from Hardings Beach, the panoramic view sends the light bouncing off sand, marsh grass, and the water into vibrant shades of blue, green, and glistening sand. Your exposed senses are jolted by the subtle beauty of a barrier beach habitat.  The high thin white fluff clouds join in by creating moving shadows across the water.

Few places in New England offer such a spectrum of short, protected paddles or extended, vulnerable to the elements paddling experiences than Chatham. The protected inland channels of Oyster Pond River and Mitchell River, both easily accessible from Stage Harbor, intrigues the soul with strong images of the history of Chatham and present day wealth.  For wilderness paddlers, the open waters of Nantucket Sound lead you to the areas premiere uninhabited islands.

The vivid Chatham culture is alive along either of the waterways corridors, amidst the stunning natural beauty of this ecological gem.  Commercial fishing boats share the waterways with sportfisherman, and pieces of the past are sprinkled across the landscape – decommissioned lighthouses and fishing weir poles.

If the weather is fair, Stage Harbor and the Monomoy Islands are a splendid full-day paddle that brings you through quiet back bays, meandering channels, and thrilling open waters.   But, before setting out on a paddle to Monomoy, gather the group, don’t do it alone, to plan your trip because Chatham is a busy section (high traffic boating channels) where the boat traffic seems almost surreal in the beautiful surroundings.  I might add, even an annoyance.

Several rules should guide paddlers on their Chatham trail or on any waterways travel for that matter.  Primary is the “sail-power-paddle” right-of-way hierarchy that gives priority to sail-powered craft, then the motorized craft, and finally self-propelled craft like canoes and kayaks.  While the rule goes against the common belief that it should be a “paddle-sail-power” right-of-way hierarchy, paddlers on Cape Cod realize that Cape Cod is a glacier outwash plain with only narrow channels for motorized craft to move through unobstructed.

If you must alter your route in response to an approaching vessel, if you are paddling on the right side of the channel heading out to open water, stay to the left of the channel markers. If you are being overtaken by a vessel heading out to open water, move your boat to the right of the channel markers. And, when the need arises to cross a boating channel do so with caution by checking in all directions for approaching vessels.  If the crossing is clear, gather the group together so to minimize the time necessary for the first and last paddler in the group to make the crossing, keeping a brisk paddling pace.

On this fine March day, with the wind brisk from the north, we launched from Sears Road, a small town landing in Chatham, that accesses Oyster Pond River at Stage Harbor. Be aware that the parking is limited to three or four vehicles, alongside the road. Sears Road, though, is a perfect landing when the winds are from the north, as you can skirt the shoreline in front of million dollar estates and past old traditional fishing piers.

Posted by: ecckayak | March 17, 2011

School Groups on Pleasant Bay

At some point, you’re going to have the fine fortune of paddling with kids on the Water Trail.  My advice, make them an important part of the outing.  Take out a chart or map of the area you are going to paddle, show them the trip plan – where you are and where you are going.  Discuss the tides and the wind direction.  Explain what they may observe. When exposed to what the outdoors has to offer, kids will inspire you with their insight and amaze you with their acquired paddling skills.

Always eager to kayak, last week a school group rounded the corner at the landing quickly, twelve year old Christopher in the lead.  He looked out across Pleasant Bay, like he had been told to do the month before, during an in-class presentation, to inspect the wind and water conditions before launching.  He studied the wind.  It was blowing pretty hard.  He studied the tidal current.  It was moving pretty quickly.  Suddenly, his energy and smile seemed to dissolve.  However, you could tell he got it, he understood the situation.  At which point, I moved in and informed the group that we were all going to be paddling in tandem sea kayaks instead of solo. The look of calm on the face of Christopher was wonderful to behold.  See, teaching these kids to kayak, to understand the conditions, and to cooperate with one another in a team building exercise is the easy part.  The key is explaining exactly where we are paddling and with whom.  Making the connection, so to speak.

Then, there was the group from the inner city who arrived to the Meetinghouse Pond landing at Pleasant Bay wearing gang-style bandannas pulled below their eyebrows and over their ears.  As they hip-hopped their way towards me with shorts drooping well below their hips, my first thought upon looking at this incongruous mixture of street thug and youthful innocence was they had good rhythm.  And, I was right.  They picked up paddling quickly. Around three hours into our paddle on Pleasant Bay, I noticed one of the boys leaning forward in his kayak. His head resting on the front deck.  I must tell you, this isn’t the easiest position from which to balance a kayak in the first place, let alone in wind and choppy waters.  But I let him float there for a few minutes before I called over to see if he was alright.  He looked up slowly and responded, “yep, just chillin.” “Chillin”, I said, that was the first time I had heard that phrase used referring to kayaking.  To my astonishment, he continued to say,  “Dick, remember that Great Blue heron we spotted back in the creek along the shoreline?”  “Yes”, I responded.  “He was chillin too!”   Then he smiled – perhaps a little to enthusiastically – and proceeded to paddle back up the river into the wind.  I think he got the connection also.

Posted by: ecckayak | March 14, 2011

Atop Pochet Island, Fall 2010 Sunday Sunrise

You can tell David M. is getting antsy to paddle Pleasant Bay, he sent us this photo (thumbnail at end) this morning from Florida – but the photo isn’t  of FLA, it’s of Pleasant Bay looking south, down Broad Creek, towards Chatham.

___________________________

What began years ago as a classic paddle to the remote islands of Pleasant Bay has become a journey of tales told through other people’s adventures. So it is with great excitement each time I enter the waters of Big and Little Pleasant Bays to find our own stories in this, the largest estuary on Cape Cod.

In earlier times, Pleasant Bay was referred to as Monomoyick, and the bay islands were used by the native Monomoyicks as summer fishing camps. Folklore also has it that Captain Kidd buried booty on Hog Island.

Getting to Hog Island or Sampson’s Island is just half the enjoyment. On a calm day, paddling silently over the eelgrass (Zostera marina) blades, just a few feet above the bottom, please take the time to observe the wonderful aquatic habitat, a shelter, nursery, and feeding ground for the bay. Horseshoe Crabs move through the dense tangled grasses. Rust colored rhizomes, attached to the eelgrass blades, sway melodically. Be aware that at low tide the floating eelgrass blades can almost hold your paddle and burden your stroke.

On a breezy day, paddling to the islands in Pleasant Bay can get a little dicey. Know your level of paddling, and your comfort zone, before setting out to cross either bay. In most cases, there is no leeward shelter, while fetch winds blow consistently.

Once through the eelgrass beds, a creek opens to a narrow channel called Hog Island Creek, between Sampson’s Island and Hog Island. As the creek opens to a salt marsh meadow, the edge is dotted by three osprey platforms. The platform on the north side  of the channel, seems to be inhabited each year. If you make sure you are a responsible distance from the nest, and none threatening, you can float within 25 yards of the nest. If you get too close, the osprey will give off a high pitch notice and tell you about it. Also, don’t paddle down the narrow mosquito control dike that passes under the platform. You would just be causing unnecessary stress to the osprey (Pandion haliaretus)adult and young.

Passage along Hog Island creek leads to Broad Creek along the inside of the Nauset Beach, the barrier beach. Here, the flow of water off your paddle face, the squawk of a laughing gull, and the faint echoing sound of pounding ocean is all you hear. It’s as if the sound of solitude embraces the awe of barrier beach beauty.

Crossing the flats of Little Pleasant Bay, bearing south, head towards Strong Island in the Great Bay, a.k.a.Big Pleasant Bay. One can only image what it must have been like to view the sea-planes launched during World War 1 from the Naval Air Station across the main channel between Strong Island and the sand cliffs of Nickerson Neck in North Chatham on the mainland.  The land of Strong Island is divided into public and private lands. Simply, the west side of the island is private. The east side is public.

From Strong Island, heading north back towards The River entrance, you can island hop. Little Sipson’s island in maintained by the Orleans Conservation Trust. Big Sipson’s island, however, is privately owned, so stop on Little Sipson’s, which is only separated from Big Sipson’s by a 100 yards.

Navigate NE from Little Sipson’s to a island bump called Money Head. This is where legend has it Captain Kidd buried his treasure, while being chased by British warships. Hog Island is also maintained by the Orleans Conservation Trust and open to the public for landings and launch.

Rounding out the islands, Sampson’s Island lies north of Money Head, a short paddle across Hog Island Creek, and is a great place to land and take a walk around the island. This too is maintained by the Orleans Conservation Trust. When exploring the island, stay on the paths, ticks are everywhere. Just do a body check of each other before getting back into kayaks and heading home.

Atop Pochet Island looking south over Broad Creek in Pleasant Bay

Posted by: ecckayak | March 10, 2011

Boat Meadow Creek by Chris Zocca

DESCRIPTION:

Boatmeadow Creek in Eastham is a scenic 3 hour round trip paddle through the marsh. The creek runs East from Cape Cod Bay inland to the bike path along the Cape Cod Rail Trail

Boatmeadow Creek is a good choice on a windy day (provided you can launch from Boatmeadow beach). It is sheltered and provides a good alternative to open water on days that the wind is blowing hard. Boatmeadow Creek is also an excellent choice for an evening sunset paddle.

THE DRIVE:

At Orleans/Eastham Rotary, exit Route 6 onto Rock Harbor Rd. Head West on Rock Harbor Rd by taking an immediate left turn at the T intersection (A right turn is a dead end). Go past the Orleans court house then turn right onto Bridge Rd. Follow Bridge Rd. until the road makes a 90 degree turn to the right. Exit Bridge Rd by going straight onto Bay View Rd. Boatmeadow Beach & Town Landing is at the end of Bay View Rd.

ALTERNATE SCENIC ROUTE:

From the traffic light at Route 6A in the center of Orleans, head West on Rock Harbor Rd. until the road comes to a T intersection (Rock Harbor is on the left). Follow Rock Harbor Rd. (to the right) to Bridge Rd. Turn left onto Bridge Rd. Follow Bridge Rd. until the road makes a 90 degree turn to the right. Exit Bridge Rd by going straight onto Bay View Rd. Boatmeadow Beach & Town Landing is at the end of Bay View Rd.

LAUNCHING & PARKING

Launching is a short carry over the sandy beach to the water.

Parking in the dirt parking lot at Boatmeadow Beach is permitted during the off-season.

A Town of Eastham sticker is required during the summer (June 15 – Labor Day)

During the summer, the boat ramp at Rock Harbor in Orleans is the best access point for non-Eastham residents (see Alternate Scenic Route directions above). Parking in the large paved lot at Rock Harbor is permitted year round and there is a small paved boat ramp off the parking lot. From Rock Harbor, Boatmeadow Creek is approximately a 5 minute paddle toward the East (right).

THE PADDLE

It takes approximately 3 hours to make the round trip through the marsh. Parts of the creek run out of water at low tide so this trip should be done at high tide. By launching approximately 1 ½ hours before high tide (on the bay side) you can paddle in with the incoming tide and back out on the outgoing tide. The main creek winds through the marsh in a series of switchbacks. After leaving the beach, bear right (East) and hug the left hand (North) side of the marsh bank. This will take you on the longest and most scenic route through the marsh. Avoid a number of large rocks on the left bank directly below the first house you see on the left. These rocks are barely submerged at higher tides and it would be quite embarrassing to hit something so early in the trip. A little further on you pass the first of 2 osprey nests (on the left) as you wind through the marsh toward the Bridge Rd. bridge. There are very limited opportunities to get out of the kayak on this trip. The best place to get out and stretch is a short distance before the bridge. There is a small sandy area on the right hand shore just before the first house you come to on the right. While most of Boatmeadow Creek consists of marshy and muddy bankings that are rather steep, this area is hard-bottomed and sandy. At this location the bank of the creek slopes gradually so that the water near the shore is shallow. This makes getting in and out of the kayak easy. This is also the best place to eat snacks or lunch as the small sandy beach which makes an ideal picnic spot.

Continuing up the creek, next you will pass under the bridge at Bridge Rd. You can get under this bridge even on the highest tides (but you will have to duck). Continuing on, the second of the 2 osprey nests is on the left. At this point, the creek splits in a couple of different directions. A small branch runs off to the right (Southwest). This creek is quite narrow but passable at high tide. It winds behind some marshy high ground almost back to Bridge Rd. The second spur off the main channel is on the left just beyond the osprey nest. It runs to the North toward an old wooden bulkhead which is visible from the main creek. This creek is wider but it is best explored on the return leg of the trip. The direction of the main channel is fairly obvious. It bears to the right (East) and runs parallel to the bike trail and the high voltage electric lines. The bike trail and electric lines will be on your left as you paddle toward the end of the creek. This section gets a little narrow but it is passable up to the bulkhead at the bike trail which is the end of the trip.

If you choose to eat lunch in your kayak, this bulkhead is a good location as you can float around just below the bike trail and surprise the unsuspecting joggers and bicyclists as they pass by.

If you choose to explore the spur creek that runs toward the old wooden bulkhead, be aware of the swifter currents in this area. While the current is not particularly swift- running or strong on most of Boatmeadow Creek, it is a factor near the bulkhead.  The Venturi effect of a large volume of water passing through the narrow opening in the bulkhead makes this area more difficult to paddle. Access is best near flood high tide or right after the tide has turned to go out since the current abates at this time. For this reason the return trip on the outgoing tide is the best time to access this area. Beyond the bulkhead, the reeds open up into a wide but shallow pond. The bottom is muddy in most places but there are hard-bottomed areas where you can get out of the kayak to stretch. Be sure to make note of the location of the opening in the reeds that leads back to the bulkhead so you can find it again when you are ready to leave.  Don’t wait too long after the tide turns to begin the return trip. The shallow pond runs out of water rather quickly and it is much easier going back out with the current. Exploring this section of the creek and pond will add 30 – 40 minutes to the trip. For those wondering why someone would construct a bulkhead in the middle of a salt marsh, the answer to the mystery was provided by the estimable Henry Lind, the (now retired) Director of the Eastham Natural Resources Department. According to Mr. Lind, the land was owned by Sturgis Rice, who wanted to use the property as a cranberry bog. Mr. Rice constructed the bulkhead to prevent salt water intrusion from destroying his cranberries. When the Town of Eastham acquired the property as conservation land, a decision was made to return the area to its natural state and the bulkhead gate was removed to allow tidal salt water flow to restore the salt marsh.

Boatmeadow Creek is a very good place for bird watching. The 2 osprey nests are both occupied nearly every year. You can observe the osprey as they fly above the marsh looking for food. On several occasions, we have seen the birds swoop down to catch small stripers with their claws. It is not uncommon to see an osprey soaring overhead with a fish clutched tightly in its talons. We have not had as much success as the osprey when it comes to fishing on Boatmeadow Creek. We have caught a few small stripers but the large volume of seaweed, reeds and other debris carried on the incoming tide tends to foul the lines so that constant cleaning of the lures is necessary. The water is clear near the mouth of the creek but it becomes much murkier as you travel farther up the creek.

Other birds such as great blue heron, egrets and yellowlegs can also be seen on most trips. However, Boatmeadow Creek is most notable for the large colonies of willets that nest along its shores. I have seen more willets here than anywhere else on Cape Cod. These non-descript brownish birds with their long bills appear rather plain as they flock in the marsh grass along the shore. As you approach they become quite noisy. The willets become skittish and take flight quickly. When they begin to fly, the large white patches on their wings become visible. In flight, the willets are easily recognizable and quite striking.

In addition to birds, other forms of wildlife are abundant on Boatmeadow Creek as well. Over the years, we have observed deer along the shore between the creek and the bike trail. Foxes can also be seen in this area. The animals come very close to the edge of the creek and seem quite at ease in the marsh. They probably feel safer away from the human activity on the bike trail. As a result, a quiet and stealthy kayaker might be fortunate to get very near and observe them in close proximity.

One of the most fascinating parts of nature on Boatmeadow Creek is the activity of the fiddler crabs. These crabs are distinctive because of their one large claw which seems way out of proportion to the rest of their body. There are thousands of these crabs all along the marsh banks. The fiddler crabs are so numerous that, at times, the sides of the creek actually seem to be alive. As I float along with the current, I am fascinated by their actions. The crabs are quite aggressive with each other. The bigger crabs brandish their large claws menacingly to threaten the smaller fiddlers and send them scampering for the safety of their homes which are little round holes burrowed into the sides of the marsh bank.

Boatmeadow Creek is one of my favorite choices for an evening sunset paddle when tide conditions are favorable. The sun setting over Cape Cod Bay is often spectacular and Boatmeadow Creek is an excellent place to watch the sunset. Beach stickers are not required in the evening so parking is not an issue during a summer sunset cruise. However, you will have to avoid the crowds who flock to the bayside beaches in the evening for the daily sunset show. The amateurs begin to arrive 45 minutes to one hour early. The professional sunset watchers time their arrival to perfection. On a cloudless evening, they arrive 5-10 minutes before showtime and watch as the fiery red ball disappears into Cape Cod Bay. They display their appreciation with enthusiastic applause, then head to Ben & Jerry’s to be first in line for ice cream. The parking lot will empty within a few minutes after the sun sets. Then you can haul out, load your kayak and go home.

Posted by: ecckayak | March 9, 2011

Boat Meadow Creek, Eastham, Ma by Dick Hilmer

When you have an urge for a “creek paddle”, Boat Meadow responds. But, before we launch a description of the Boat Meadow River paddle, let’s first decide upon the difference between a river and a creek. Officially named Boat Meadow River, most paddlers might consider Boat Meadow a creek.

For our sake of reference, as in mountains and hills, ponds or lakes, most of us might consider a mountain larger than a hill, a lake bigger than a pond, therefore a river wider than a creek. Boat Meadow River is classified in our minds as a creek no wider than 30 feet from side to side, making it much shorter than the Herring River paddle and very different from Bass Rivers’ boat traffic and shoreline development.

It should also be noted that you will rarely, if ever, encounter a small power boat or sailboat while paddling Boat Meadow. In all my years paddling Boat Meadow, I recall one time that I passed a small skiff in the creek, crabbing.

To understand more fully where you are paddling, picture Boat Meadow as a flat floored valley, geologically speaking, called an outwash channel. Most water trails on Cape Cod are outwash channels. The outwash channel at Boat Meadow was formed by melting water quickly running off ice (flooding), the ice left behind as the glacier retreated, and the melting water carving a path towards Cape Cod Bay.

The water trail itself follows that deep path (channel) down the middle of the valley (outwash). Over the last ten thousand years bogs have germinated in the area, eventually being overtaken by marsh encroachment, and now you get the vision that you will be paddling back and forth in an old outwash channel with no real gradient at all, that is occupied by native bogs and fertile marsh detritus, and you will be passing a diversity of salt marsh plants.

And, since the 138 acres of Boat Meadow has only one navigable route, a mile and a half stretch of meandering creek, surrounded by upland areas, marshlands, and fronting Cape Cod Bay, it offers paddlers great opportunities to view backyard birds, shorebirds and hawks – most notably the osprey and red-tailed hawks, shorebirds like willets, terns, and great blue herons, and sparrows and red-winged blackbirds.

First, upon your arrival to the parking area at Boat Meadow, you will surely look out into windswept Cape Cod Bay and question your intentions. Except for the first five minutes at launch off the beach, the creek is tranquil. The parking lot and beach are the most exposed sections of your trip.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the Boat Meadow paddle, in my opinion, is getting your kayak from atop your vehicle to the shore line. The steeply sloping sand (maybe 10 ft) berm is tricky to descend because there is no apparent trail. Also the parking area is on a very weathered bluff exposed to the prevailing SW wind. If you are not carefully aware, the winds can blow strong enough to topple your kayak off its roof rack, take off a side-mirror, or worse, land on someone. I am talking from experience and well deserved embarrassment.

Once your boat is down on the beach, there is always a chance of shore break, if, as usual, the prevailing winds from the SW funnel into the mouth of the creek from Cape Cod Bay.  Position the bow of your kayak directly into the breeze, allowing the bow to slice through the breeze.

At launch, push straight through, what may be, eight-inch chop created by the SW breeze coming off the bay. Pulling and pushing swiftly paddle away from shore, directly into the incoming wavelets, breaking each falling wavelet with the bow of your kayak. Paddle out 25 yards, become aware of wind direction, and using a sweep stroke turn to your right (north), position the breeze to be centered on your back and flow with the wind and incoming tide into the creek entrance. Once inland, past the mouth of Boat Meadow River (and some moored sailboats), choose any one of the three channels carved into the marshland, they all lead to one main channel that will take you into the outwash valley.

Remember we said this is a fairly easy paddle. However, for paddlers, bridges are also memorable, and not just because the silence of the water trail is instantly overpowered by vehicles moving closely above, and not just because the bridge on Bridge Road over Boat Meadow is about half way down the creek, but because it may create a formidable obstacle. Occasionally, you can’t get underneath the bridge because you didn’t know or didn’t take into consideration that the tides are getting consistently higher, not necessarily during just a full and new moon. The tides may be extremely high due to a low pressure system off the coast, but understand that Boat Meadow fills with water to a height where you have to limbo under the bridge in order to sneak through. I don’t know about you, but I am not as limber as I use to be and when entering Boat Meadow I am always diligent in figuring out if I will get under the bridge comfortably.

Approximately an hour into your paddle, obviously dependent upon your speed, Boat Meadow Creek forks to the left towards the remnants of an old dike. It also forks to the right where within 100 yards the lush marsh closes in and spartina grasses arch from side to side. At this point, it’s hard to image that sailing ships passed through Boat Meadow on there way to Town Cove. Back then, early 1800’s, this was called Jeremiah’s Gutter.

We recommend while at the fork you paddle right into the marsh. It is true, the creek will narrow to a point that it is un-passable, but, in our opinion, that is better than taking a left at the fork. Twenty five yards left of the fork the force of the tidal flow gets strong enough to pin your kayak against remnants of the old dike if you are not careful to paddle to the right of the deserted piling. The dike once separated the marsh meadow from an old cranberry bog.

We suggest that at the fork, it’s a good place, wide enough, to turn around and head back to the beach and parking area. You should also be aware that there is no place along the creek trail to stretch your legs. You might consider bracing your kayak against the marsh edge to hoist yourself onto the marsh grass.

Of all the water trails, Boat Meadow Creek is very unique. It is a straight forward channel that is enveloped by marsh grass and sheltered from winds and waves.

Locals Corner: Boat Meadow is particularly beautiful in the fall. No one believes that more than local paddler “Sunny”, who gets great joy out of paddling Boast Meadow.  If it were Sunny’s chose she would paddle Boat Meadow each week, especially when the leaves are changing color, the marsh grass yellowing, and the crispness of the air coming off the bay which invigorates the inhabitants of Boat Meadow River .

Historical Fact: “Many of the cranberry bogs were developed on the flat, swampy floors of Kettle Ponds and outwash channels. Gradually the partly decomposed vegetative matter replaced the water surface, producing a bog. The vegetative matter was compacted in brown material known as peat. Which wad taken from the bogs by local people in the late 1700s through the early 1800s for use as fuel. The peat ashes were used as a fertilizer on fields.” Robert Odale, A Geologists View of Cape Cod.

Geologic Fact:  The Boat Meadow outwash channel lies on the northern and eastern fringe of the Sandwich glacial moraine which extends east along Rte 6, the Mid-Cape Highway, from Sandwich through Barnstable to Eastham where deposited till crosses to Orleans, from bay to ocean.

Botanical Fact: Technically Seaweed, those quasi-plants you see under water, suspended, swaying beneath you as you paddle, are a sure tell-tale sign of which direction the tidal current is moving, But, seaweed is not a plant afterall. Seaweed is a term that refers to all macroalgae in the Protista Kingdom. Seaweeds may resemble plants but their structure is defined as a blade instead of a leaf, a stipe instead of a stem, and my favorite, the holdfast which roots the seaweed to the substrate. The holdfast is a system of threads with a platform that sticks the green, brown, or red algae firmly to minerals, rocks, or mollusk along the waterway bottom.

Posted by: ecckayak | March 8, 2011

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We hope you like our insight into paddling the water trails of Cape Cod

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