Trying Something New – Paddle to Boston
July 21, 2013

By Andrea Pelosi, Kids Outdoors Boston Parent Ambassador

Until recently, when I looked at a map of the Greater Boston area, I didn’t pay any attention to the wide swath of blue meandering its way through the various cities and towns towards Boston Harbor. I focused solely on the roads. The Charles River was inconsequential to me. Now that I have experienced the outdoors in a canoe, I felt the need to investigate travelling on the Charles.

As a family, we have been slowly dipping our toes into canoeing and kayaking. A few summers ago, we first tried canoeing. Austin quickly became intrigued by kayaking. Olivia has slowly warmed up to being on a boat of any type. I have found canoeing and kayaking a refreshing and tranquil way to be outside.   

 We still don’t have our own boats, but it is very easy to rent one for an hour or two in a number of locations around Boston. I was excited to discover that Charles River Canoe and Kayak offered a one-way trip from their Allston/Brighton location to their Kendall Square location, a five-mile paddle down the Charles River. Since the river is dammed, there isn’t a current to worry about—a perfect river to paddle with children. The rental company made sure we were aware of all the water safety rules prior to shoving off.

Now on the water, Olivia and I were in a double kayak and Austin was in his own. We went from riverbanks that were exclusively tree lined to ever-increasing signs of the city. We witnessed both people and waterbirds foraging in the water. We weren’t quite sure what the people wading in the water were looking for. There is still the perception that the water in the Charles is dirty, even though the water is officially swimmable. Somehow Austin was even aware of the polluted history of the river. It is hard to believe how quiet it was on the river, even as we got closer to the city. We occasionally heard an ambulance siren or a car horn, but it was all a bit muffled. We may have been in the city, but we were traveling on a river—there just wasn’t any sense of immediacy. We could just float along while traffic was whizzing by on either side us.

 It was surprising at how wide the river got as we neared the harbor. It made sense to learn that this was an estuary not so long ago. This was even easier to imagine as we neared the Esplanade. I was stunned to see the view of the John Hancock building with marshland in the foreground. The building seemed out of place from this vantage point.

It is easy to miss the turn to the Charles River Canoe and Kayak kiosk in Kendall square, since it’s down a waterway under a number of overpasses, so be sure you’re on the lookout. We couldn’t believe that we were on the water for over two hours! It felt as if it was a half hour at most. For me, this is the magic of kayaking on a river. We were glad that we didn’t have to paddle back—a great benefit of renting one-way and paddling into the city. After returning our boats, we were able to jump on the T at Kendall Square and recuperate a bit. We got off at the Harvard stop, then enjoyed the walk back to Allston, remarking on the spots we had seen from the river.

Canoeing and kayaking is a great family activity. There are a number of places to give it a try in and around the city. Outdoors with Kids has an informative at-a-glance planner that notes places to paddle. Be sure to check and see if the locations rent boats, if you don’t have your own. We have been to a number of places and are looking forward to discovering more, and perhaps the harbor is next!

About the blogger: Andrea Pelosi is a featured guest blogger as part of AMC’s Kids Outdoors Boston Parent Ambassador program, which partners with local parents to share their outdoor experiences with this online community and beyond. Andrea lives south of Boston inside I-95 and enjoys exploring outdoors with her 10-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter. Stay tuned throughout the summer for monthly blog posts and trip reports from Andrea, as well as from other local Parent Ambassadors and AMC’s Outdoors with Kids Boston author, Kim Foley MacKinnon.

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