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The Wampanoag Canoe Passage is divided into three sections of nearly equal length. The first from Scituate to Pembroke ending at Little Sandy Pond. The second from East Bridgewater to Middleborough, ending at Camp Titicut and the third from Raynham to Berkley, ending at Dighton Rock State Park.
Permission should always be obtained before crossing private land and a careful check of tidal conditions is mandatory at either end of the passage to insure a safe and enjoyable journey.
Section 1a: Near the mouth of the North River to Route 53 (14 miles)
Water conditions at the mouth can be treacherous. It is best to begin at the Route 3A bridge at the Marshfield/Scituate line. Easy access is available at either of two boatyards, one on each side of the river. The river is tidal to the Herring Brook in Pembroke and the upstream passage should be made on an incoming tide. Tidal charts should be checked carefully. High and low water times at the mouth of the river are nearly the same as those at Boston but the upstream high and low water times are several hours later.
As the river starts into the interior, it is a wide channel bordered on both sides by deep marshes. Motorboats are over this area during the warmer months. The first upstream bridge is at Union street, Norwell, with access at the town landing.
Just above the bridge there are some boulders in the river bed (a Class 2 hazard on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 the most difficult). Plaques mark the sites of the old shipyards. Historians believe that more than 1,025 vessels were built in more than 15 yeards from 1678 to 1871.
After the boulder hazard, the canoeist shortly comes upon Blueberry Island in the marsheds to the left on the Marshfield side. It is the first good camping area of the trip. The river broadens here as it meanders through a marshy wilderness and soon passes under busy Route 3 (the Southeast Expressway). In a few miles, there is a commercial access at a marina on the south bank of the river in Pembroke, just before Robinson's Creek.
The river snakes its way from here on up to stone bridge (Old Washington Street) and the Route 53 bridge at the Hanover/Pembroke line. Good access can be found here on the right-hand bank, including one at Pantoosett Farms just upstream from Route 53
Section 1b: Route 53 to Little Sandy Bottom Pond (5 miles)
Formed by the confluence of Indian Head River and Herring Brook, the North River starts about a mile upstream from Route 53. There is a short passage up the Indian Head to excellent access at Elm Street in hanover. The main route goes southerly via Herring Brook, a freshwater stream alongside a cedar swamp. The brook is narrow, sometimes pinching down to the width of a canoe.
The next access is at Pembroke's Herring Run Park, where each spring schools of herring run for the spawning grounds of upstream ponds. The first portage (overland carry of canoe) of the trip is also here, across Route 14. The first 50 yards are especially tough going-- against brush, logs and large stones in a narrow brook. Soon the waterway widens into a marshy meadow.
The next portage is over a steep embankment at Mountain Ave. Next comes a shallow channel across cranberry bogs to a portage around a dilapidated grist mill on Mill Pond which features excellent pickerel fishing. Follow the culvert under Hobomock and Mill street via a sluggish, shallow stream to another portage at Center Street. Right away, there is another portage around the herring ladder leading up to Furnace Pond. Then paddle across the pond in a westerly direction to a dirt road near the shore.
Next is the longest portage of the trip (.9 miles) along the east bank of Great Sandy Bottom pond, a town water supply, and a cranberry bog to a launch site on a private beach at Little Sandy Bottom Pond. Permission is required.
The vertical lift from the mouth of the North River to the point is 65 feet, the highest elevation of the passage. After a paddle across Little Sandy, the drainage and current flow is southerly to Narragansett Bay. The first step is a portage across Route 27.
Section 2a: Little Sandy to Robbins Pond in East Bridgewater (8 Miles):
This stretch begins with a .4 mile portage over a cranberry-bog service road and dikes to Stetson Pond. Next comes a portage over railroad tracks into inches-deep Stetson Brook. It is usually necessary to portage around Columbia Bog and then paddle through a half-mile of dense cover. The growth is high and wide on all sides. This wilderness brings the canoeist to the twin Monponsett Lakes, the largest bodies of water on the passage. A culvert under Route 58 connects the two lakes. As an alternative to paddling the full length of both lakes, there is a portage route from the seaplane base on the East Lake to the shore near the restaurant on West Lake. From there paddle northwesterly.
From West Lake into Stump Brook, the passage is wild and remote. To the right is an extended wetlands area, the Peterson Swamp Wildlife Preserve, with a large variety of birdlife. There is a portage over a concrete dam in Stump Brook until the two stump ponds are reached. This entire area is swampy.
There is a carry-over at Elm Street in Halifax and another at Furnace Street, where permission is needed. As an alternative, you can pull the canoe through a culvert with a two-foot drop. Then travel through the swamp reservoir to Robbins Pond. Cross the pond by keeping Osceola Island on the left to arrive at the Satucket River.
Section 2b: Robbins Pond to Route 495 in Middleborough (25 miles):
If the water level is too low at the Pond Street culvert, a portage is required. Then head down the Satucket River. Half a mile on the journey, there is a portage to the left of a willow thicket that obscures the entry on the right of Poor Meadow Brook. Double-check at this point to make sure the canoe is going downstream with the current.
Travel under the Washington and Bridge streets crossing and past Phillips Wildlife Refuge. Here the river runs down the center of a cow pasture. Just above the dam at Route 106 is a low wooden dock on the left. Up a short path is a fresh-water spring.
Portage over the dam by the bank or around the Carver Cotton Gin Factory. The river now flows between two well-defined banks. Several downed trees block the passage. Each is a minor portage. Downstream, in East Bridgewater, the passage turns into the Matfield River and now has a wide, sluggist flow. Approaching the confluence of the Town and Taunton rivers, there are transmission lines to pass under, and a hard-to-see turn into the Taunton. The canoeist should bear to the left. The last protage of the passage is at a dam and spillway by Route 104. Approach cautiously on the extreme right and carry the canoe down the fish ladder.
The Taunton River is a broad, well-developed stream with a smooth-flowing current through farmland. Soon after Short Street, the Winnetuxet River joins the Taunton's flow. The next bridges are at Auburn and Summer street, adjacent to the Bridgewater Correctional Institution. 4 miles downstream, the Nemasket River empties into the Taunton. A side trip here leads to the former Tuspaquin Village and Wampanoag Royal Burial Ground, a National Historic Site.
At the Titicut Street bridge, there is a Class 2 whitewater hazard. The canoeist should pass in the center under the left span, a good access point. Next comes the Routes 18-28 bridge. From here to Route 495, the river is rocky, with several whitewater spots requiring caution.
Section 3: Route 25 to Dighton Rock State Park (20 mles):
From here, the Taunton has a broad, majestic quality. It is deep and has steep banks bordered by thick woodlands. At one time at the Church Street bridge, there was a Class 3 hazard located here which was removed when the Church Street bridge was rebuilt.
The preferred passage is on the right. By East Taunton at South Street East, the river becomes tidal. There is access with a parking area available just north of the bridge on South Street. There are a number of factories along the riverfront -- a good example of pollution cleanup. Some 23 pipes jut into the river that no longer discharge into the river. One factory building just past the bridge has been converted to a condominium complex. This section of the river above Route 24 offers many scenic areas with little development. A variety of birds, turtles and other wildlife may be seen.
The river meanders under Route 24 and then parallels Route 44. The banks screen the canoeist from much of the urban sprawl. There is good access to the river via an inlet which runs up to near the back of the McDonalds restaurant. Municipal facilities, pumping stations, schools, factories, and residential areas are along the river banks through Taunton.
The river passes under Route 140, a railroad bridge and the Plain Street Bridge before passing the Weir Village Riverfront Park and the water pollution control plant on the right. There is also good access on both sides of the river with parking available at the park which is on East Water Street near the Berkley Street and Plain Street intersection.
After the Three Mile River joins the Taunton River in Dighton, the passage gradually broadens and deepens. It is bordered by a far-reaching tidal marsh. The last bridge is at Center Street. The end of the passage is at Dighton Rock State Park, marked by a monument building. If wind and tide are favorable, the canoeist can go the tip of Assonet Neck.
Narragansett Bay and Fall River are downstream, but it is open water exposed to the prevailing southwest winds and not suited to canoeing.
|Maps were reproduced from the Wamponoag Canoe Passage Brochure, published by the Plymouth County Development Council. P.O. Box 1620, Pembroke, Mass 02359. Much of the material for the passageway description was furnished by Professor Thomas H. Clark of Northeastern University Graduate School of Education.|