Sunday, June 12, 2011

Kayaking on Cape Cod at the Great Salt Marsh

Our friend John invited Dundee, my son Tim, and me for a day’s kayak paddle near John’s Cape Cod home. We expected an easy paddle in Barnstable Harbor’s protected waters.

Our 11 AM put-in at Scudder Lane’s paved ramp began an hour before low tide.  Due to winds of 10 to 15 mile per hour, mixed with the change to incoming tide, we experienced choppy water and one to two-foot waves -- and a somewhat exciting paddle.

We had light winds as we crossed the harbor to Sandy Neck and paddled along its beautiful sand beach.  We saw the power of the ocean on the great salt marsh as you will see in the below video of chunks of sand being pulled into the bay.

• We walked on Sandy Neck beach – and this required pulling our kayaks over low tide sand bars.

• We did not paddle the extreme marshes as low tide left only mud lanes. Our brief venture into the marsh required stepping ashore and going through foot-deep mud to get to the high water grass. My water sandals were nearly lost as the mud would only release my feet after I removed my sandals.

• When the tide changed, we experienced a tidal phenomena at spots where low water sand bars and deep water met. You will see in this brief video water frothing, similar to white water flowing over rocks – but rocks were not present. Indeed I was at first hesitant to cross this very real white line, but after passing through a few of these areas I realized the froth was only the outgoing and incoming water meeting on the low tide turn.

• We paddled by oyster farmers “up close and personal” as they cultiavated their oyster beds.

• Our water tour of Barnstable Harbor and its Great Salt Marsh lasted four and a half hours.

Getting there:

“Barnstable Harbor is located on Cape Cod Bay between the barrier beach of Sandy Neck and an extensive saltmarsh estuary between Sandwich and the Cape Cod Canal to the northeast and Wellfleet to the southeast. It's roughly nine nautical miles from the entrance of the Cape Cod Canal to Barnstable Harbor.

It’s important to note the tide and other conditions. If it's particularly nasty, you may want to pass on because of the Barnstable Harbor entrance's shallow water and east-west tidal currents that shift north to south in the harbor channel. A tidal range of nearly 10 feet makes the harbor prone to shoaling. It is best to enter the harbor on a rising tide. Once in the harbor channel, stay well within the markers, as the areas off Beach Point and Sandy Neck Light are very shallow and prone to strong currents.

Nearby Scudder Lane has a paved ramp that launches into the harbor, but it has limited parking. Finally, while boaters would be wise to avoid Barnstable Harbor's tricky network of creeks and marshland, kayakers and paddlers will love it. However, if embarking on an unguided trek, be sure to take along a GPS and/or a cell phone, as it's easy to become stranded or lost in the Great Marshes' maze of creeks. Use NOAA chart 13251.”

I never have to say, “I wish I had kayaked the Great Salt Marsh of Cape Cod”

Click here to see all the pictures and videos of Kayaking Barnstable's Great Salt Marsh.

Steve’s latest book, Outdoor Enthusiast: Never say, “I wish I had…” is now available as an e-Book at Kindle and Nook.

Read more at: