Merrimack Day Trip: good idea?

A friend of mine wants to float down the Mac from Haverhill to Newburyport. He and his wife are beginning level paddlers, as am I, but they are equipped with inflatabel kayaks. I have an OK Prowler 13 that I’d use for this trip (althought my 14 foot dirigo need to get out of the garage). We are going to head out at almost high tide so that the river current and or receading tide will be at our backs. I am leery about this trip. Im not sure that this is something that we should be undertaking in those craft or at our skill levels. My friend is not the sharpest knife in the draw and this hole thing is his plan. His Mrs. is a new maom and I am not a strong enough paddler by any stretch of the imagination to “save” them if something goes wrong. Neither of them have cold-water clothing (I was going to try to gert them to go to the safety class instead of the trip: I plan on going next week). Of course, I watched two teenaged girls in an open-topped tandem SINK paddle off onto Joppa with the tide going out like some one drainoed the mouth and never heard that they died or any thing so I might just be being a Nanny here. IDK. Any advice from you more experienced paddlers/merrimackers?

I think you’ve answered your own question already, no cold water gear, no way to rescue, etc…

At times it can be flat and calm, if it’s windy it can too much too handle in a rec boat. It can also have lots of power boat traffic who just want to get down to the ocean and have no regard for canoes and/or kayaks. Any chance you can convince him to go somewhere else? Ipswich river? Pow Wow river? Back river? there are lots of alternatives in the area.

Agree with previous poster. You might
have a really fast 15 mile run, or you could get into a world of headaches. But there are some nice parks along there. Why not use Google Earth satellite photos with the park mapping option to set out some shorter trips of higher quality?

the mouth of the merrimack
the last couple miles of the merrimack, between the downtown and the sandbars at the east end can be really rough, and the current through there can reach 6 knots, if I recall correctly.

Add the winds that are common on the waterfront, and that area can really be a handful even for prepared boaters.

I’d say novices in inflatables are not up to that area.

The Ipswich is a really nice paddle though. Much smaller, no powerboats, and slower.

If you do end up doing the Merrimack, make sure you recognize when you’re approaching Newburyport, and get off the river. You don’t want those inflatables to get swept past the harbor and out into the tidal rips and waves east of town.

Pulling the Plug
Yea, I have paddled on the flats a few times and have gottne sucked into the chanel. 10 minuit ride down to Woodbridge and 45 min of HARD paddling back to the ramp. I can’t stop them from going but I don’t want to be a part of it.

Hope they have just enough trouble to
listen to reason next time, but no more.

Haverhill to Newburyport
As I recall that’s a 15 mile paddle without much current to help you along.

I paddled up and back one day last year and timed it to go with the tides. The only place I noticed the current at all was from just below Merrimacport to the ramp on the way back. It was kind of fun under the Chain Bridge. Higher flow coming down the river would affect that as would higher tides.

Seems like I paddled into the wind both ways. I think that’s just the way that river twists.

If they go it might be a good idea to spot a car part way down just in case.

One of these days I want to run from below the Lawrence dam down to Newburyport.


cold water paddling
Before you go, do your homework! Are you really prepared for the dangers of cold water paddling? Have you watched the video “Cold Water Boot Camp” from

The Mac in June ain’t hardly cold.
Least ways not until you wash out to sea and then you have worse problems.