Eel River

Paddling the Eel River

Check these conditions in advance:

1) Tide; consult tide table; A) select an outgoing tide; B) i) medium to high means easy passage over shallows, and there will be firmer sand at Stephen’s Field; ii) low tide provides a faster, more exciting trip past the Plymouth Beach parking area; however, the pull-out at Stephen’s Field will be muddy.
2) Take a look at the rocks exposed under Rte. 3-A. A) If they are barely showing, expect to bump and float through. B) If rocks stand out, have about 10’ of rope and be prepared to lower the craft past them.
3) From Clifford St. bridge, take a look at the growth of rose bushes and other vegetation along Shingle Brook. E-mail Stew Sanders of the Eel River Watershed Association. (
  A) If it was cut within last 5 weeks, passage may be easy. B) If not, bring clippers and gloves. Stew cut the passage July, 2010.
4) Check the passage under the River St. bridge. A) It was about 4’ July, 2010, and we ducked our heads a little B) less room requires lying low C) portage has not been necessary.
5) The weather; no thunderstorm activity
6) The water and wind from the mouth of the Eel River to Stephen’s Field. If there is a strong NE wind, make an alternative plan. For safety, follow close to the shore.
7) Total time allow about 2 hours

Setting up the trip:

Unload a person and canoes/kayaks paddles and life jackets at the Clifford St. bridge below Howland Pond, and drive to Stephens Field. Leave one car for each canoe/kayak that will be ending there, and drive back to Clifford St. There is room for two cars to park on each side of the Clifford St. bridge, and there is another space in front of a house between the bridge and Old Sandwich Rd.

The trip:
1) Launch into Shingle Brook, below the dam, on the downstream side of Clifford St. bridge.
2) Pass with the current through the narrow opening in shrubs, occasional rose thorns, and spider webs. If cutting, you may need to carry some of the cuttings to more open areas.
3) After joining the Eel River, the stream bed widens and is wild and wonderful. If removing trash, have a plastic bag aboard. You will not find a lot of it.
4) After passing under the River St. and the Rte. 3 access road bridges, enter the larger of the two parts of Eel River Pond, and see the Plimoth Plantation display of dugout canoes along the left bank.
5) The narrow outgoing channel is beyond them and on the same, left, side. As you pass into the tall marsh grass, you will know by the rapid current that you are in the Eel River.
6) On entering the opening under Route 3-A, choose the left side of the “V” of water between rocks.
7) Enjoy the fast ride with river current and out-going tide over sandy and stony bottom.
8) Come out into open water and follow the shoreline to Stephens Field.