First trip 6 & 10 yo, canoe, Connecticut

Hi All, looking for some advice. Doing my research, but looking for folks who might have personal experience. Went canoeing on a lake with my 6 & 10 year old last year, they loved it, want to encourage the experience. They immediately said they wanted to go canoe camping. So, while any true canoe camping trip is out of their range at the moment, I want to emulate one as much as i can. So maybe 1-2 hours canoeing, launch from a boat ramp, reserve a riverfront campsite nearby, canoe there, tent camp for the night, then back the next morning. I’m looking for gentle water obviously. We don’t own a canoe, so rental nearby is idea. It’s a lot of criteria, so it’s a stretch, but worth a shot. I want to give them the experience young to stoke the fires.

So far i see a few possibles, one along farmington, the other on the CT river - launch from Hadlyme Ferry Boat Launch, what looks like a short stretch of CT river down to Selden Creek, camp at Hogback site.

So, thoughts? thinking of currents, both there and back, ok to push outside of our comfort zone a bit, but don’t want to be unsafe obviously.

Appreciate any advice. Thx so much.

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Watch the weather. Rent a larger, stable canoe with plenty of beam.
I started canoeing with the Boy Scouts at age 11.
My brother and I paddled the Ausable River in Michigan when he was 10 and I was 12.
Get paddles for both of your boys.

I’ve paddled the lower Housatonic and it’s a lovely river but no campsites in that part. But looking a little farther upstream, one possibility for you might be to launch at Indian Well state park (no camping but a boat launch) and paddle 3 miles up to Webb Mountain Park, which does have boat launching and campsites. Stay the night there and head back or continue upstream the second day though being there is a dam a mile upstream that would not provide much of an outing before having to head back to Webb for a second night before going back to the Indian Well. The usual planning would be needed in reserving a campsite and also to assure it was OK to leave your car at Indian Well overnight.

Might be easier to START at Webb, leaving the camping gear in the car at your reserved site (since leaving cars at reserved camp sites is routine), then paddling down to Indian Well and back one day (6 miles roundtrip). On Day 2 you could load the canoe and drive to Eichler’s Cove (8 minute trip according to GPS) above the Lake Zoar dam, relaunch there and splash around up there until they are tired and you can go back to the car and the camp at Webb.

This outfitter at Lake Zoar (above the dam) rents canoes:

With kids of that age range my experience has been that having “wilderness” outings that are somewhat handy to fast food places and that have short distances between bail-out points is less stress for the adults involved.

Maybe others familiar with that stretch of the river will weigh in on the scenery and resouces.


just make sure you reserve a site. You can’t just show up at Selden Island. Best to avoid a weekend with river crazies and overpowered boats but you can explore the back creek in peace and quiet. It is tidal and it may be appropriate to time out the tide. There is usually a two hour delay compared to Old Saybrook
We used to live in the area… been paddling there many times.


thank you for the advice!

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Thanks so much! I actually grew up on Lake Zoar right across from Kettletown. My parents still live there - we were looking for something a little different, more tidal, closer to the action, etc. But this is good info, thank you!

Awesome, this is where we landed right before I read your post :smile: I spoke to a few of the canoe rental places in Old Saybrook/Old Lyme and had a lengthy conversation with the CT State park rep for that area, she was super nice and knowledgeable. I’ll be doing a weekday for exactly the reason you called out above. I’ll need to watch the weather, but I made a reservation for Hogback site on Selden for our 1st choice date. I wanted to book a few different dates to be able to react to weather changes, but reserveamerica is crazy with $9 fees per reservation, $9 to change - good grief the site is only $5. So we’ll take our chances and if I have to move those dates, hope something is still available for us to book. We’ll be renting the canoe from Blackhall Outfitters (another super nice guy) in Old Lyme, about 20 mins from the boat launch near Gillette Castle.

Thanks for the great info!

The lower miles of the Housatonic is a quite lovely paddle but of course is very developed for most of the trip, with marinas and dockside restaurants. But at the delta, where it spreads out into a maze of tall spartina grass full of birds, it is magical.

One of my favorite day paddles of all time was with my friend John, a fishing guide and marine consultant who lived in Fairfield at the time, when we put in with our sea kayaks one beautiful early September morning at the ramp under the Isaac Hull Bridge (route 8) at O-Sullivan Island and paddled down the 10-11 miles or so to the Charles Wheeler Wildlife Area in the braided delta. At one point we rounded a bend in the grassy channels and flushed 9 great white herons that rose like a flock of angels. It was a mild calm day so we paddled around in Long Island Sound for a little while before heading back upriver around dinner time. We hauled out on a dock on the western bank and had an excellent seafood dinner at a restaurant there, then finished our paddle back up to the bridge under a full moon that was refllected in the water. There are so many lights along the river there that we had no trouble navigating (we did have safety lights).

Here are a some photos, from the Wheeler area, the Hull Bridge launch and from the dock under the full moon.

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I frequently do the run from the launch below Gillette to and around Selden Island. You need to watch both wind and tide or you will wear yourself out. Generally speaking, wind can be more difficult to paddle into than the tide. But, having said that, it needs to be noted that the ebb tide is harder to paddle into than the flood because the river flow adds to it. I generally try to leave the launch an hour or two before low tide. I also favor the early, real early, part of the day when wind is light. The trip is worth the difficulty. Selden Island does seem to be home to a lot of deer and ticks. It also has an interesting history, particularly as a quarry a little over 100 years ago. The evidence of that is everywhere. Enjoy. Peter

Selden Creek itself is a cool little waterway, and a lot quieter than the river. I used to moor my sailboat in Deep River and Chester, and take the dinghy up through the creek, enjoying the solitude while listening to the powerboat traffic tearing up the river. Smart move doing the weekday thing, just be aware that it only takes one idiot trying to plane his freaking Grand Banks trawler to mess up your day. Spent a lot of time on that river, mornings in that area can be magical, just north of Essex there’s often be dozens of Egrets fishing the marsh, and with a little morning fog mixed in, a beautiful sight…10 o’clock, it turns into a commuter zone. Gawd, I hate powerboats.