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Boat Ride on the Concord River - a Perfect Summer Adventure

Uncle Tom stopped by this weekend with his boat in tow. This was a special treat, because it was not just any boat, but a 1948 Old Town wooden motor boat, beautifully restored and just perfect to take on the Concord River. We put together a picnic, grabbed the life jackets, and set off for a summer adventure.

The launch went smoothly, and we slowly eased into the river, past the families fishing on both shores at the boat landing. Once we were out on the river, it felt like we had entered a different world. The shore line is remarkably undeveloped, and the scenery varied. The river flows slowly, and is navigable by small motor boats, canoes, and kayaks. We passed a number of fishermen slowly trolling up and down the river, as well.

Our route would take us five miles from the Bedford landing to Egg Rock and back. We quickly reach Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, where they say over 220 species of birds have been identified. We didn’t see quite that many, but the blue herons, hawks, ducks, and geese along the shoreline were plentiful. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protects and manages Great Meadows as nesting, resting, and feeding habitat for wildlife. It’s a popular destination for birders, and we often walk the easy 2.5 mile trail system that wind through meadows and woods in Concord. (Best access to the trails is on Monsen Road in Concord. There’s a restroom, a wildlife observation tower, a wildlife observation platform, and direct access to the Concord River.)

Coming around a bend, we entered the Minute Man National Historic Park. Since we have visited numerous times from land, it was fun to spot the many familiar landmarks as we approached from the water. We motored past the Buttrick Mansion (which houses the North Bridge Visitors Center), went under the Old North Bridge (the bridge that marks the first battle of the Revolutionary War) and, a little farther on, the Old Manse, built by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s grandfather in 1770. There’s a dock at the boathouse of the Old Manse where you can tie up your boat if you’d like to take a guided tour or walk around the grounds, but we decided that today we wanted to stay on the river, in the boat. As we looked back at the bridge, we saw the head of the Minute Man statue peeking out from the trees.

We crossed under Lowell Road Bridge, and made it to Egg Rock, where the Concord River splits to become the Sudbury and Assabet Rivers. We considered tying up and getting out to read the inscription on the rock (carved in the late 1800s), but the river was extremely low due to the lack of rain this year, so we decided not to push our luck and turned around for our five-mile return trip.

Heading back, we found the landing next to a small beach in Great Meadows, where we tied up and had our picnic. The trails are easily accessible from the landing, but we decided to save that for another day. Turtles, herons, geese and deer watched as we climbed back in the boat and motored back to the landing.

And the perfect ending to our perfect summer adventure? A stop at Bedford Farms in Concord Center...

If You Go

The stretch of the Concord River that runs from Egg Rock at the beginning of the Concord River in Concord to the Middlesex Canal in Billerica is approximately 11 miles long. It consists of two segments: the route we took today, Egg Rock to Carlisle-Bedford Bridge, and Carlisle-Bedford Bridge to Middlesex Canal. Generally the current is gentle enough to paddle downstream and then return upstream, if the kids are old enough and you have the time and energy. Otherwise, each one-way segment is just about five miles - a one-hour ride in a small motor boat, or a half-day trip by kayak. The Sudbury Assabet Concord River Council’s website has a map and more information.

The South Bridge Boat House (496 Main Street, Concord; 978-369-9438) rents canoes and kayaks, or you can launch your own boat at several access points along the river.