Andrew P Watson

Web Developer

Kayaking the Powow River – Downtown Amesbury to the Merrimack River… and then some

Sat, 08/21/2010 - 20:22

I went Kayaking today with a friend of mine. We didn’t have a ton of time, so we decided on someplace close to both of us – The Powow River. I’ve lived in Amesbury for a few years, and lived in the area (Newburyport) for something like 25 years. When Justin (friend I went with) said we should try the Powow, and put in near the center of downtown Amesbury, I was a little less than excited. I know that the Powow runs through downtown Amesbury, and ends up in the Merrimack River, but I honestly thought the section from downtown Amesbury, to the Merrimack was little more than a dirty, short, urban slog until it spills into the Merrimack.

So, I was excited to get out, but not at all expecting anything grand from the Powow. At least not this section of it. I’ve done some of the Powow upstream from downtown Amesbury and it’s pretty decent. But, like I said, I didn’t think the “lower” part of the river could possibly be any good. It’s surrounded by highways, shopping centers, apartments, old mill buildings and all the other dirty characteristics that define a blue-collar historic New England town.

Ok, all that said…

I was absolutely taken aback by how far, open, scenic, and awesome it was. The river ran for a long stretches through areas of thick vegetation that look more like a wilderness refuge than a city.

Kayaking the Powow River – From downtown Amesbury to the Merrimack River

We launched the kayaks directly in the center of downtown Amesbury. After paddling around a bit, and exploring what little “upstream” there was (a hundred feet or so), we turned around and headed off.

Kayaking on the Powow River - 1

Kayaking on the Powow River - 2

Right from the start, the river opened up a lot wider than I expected. There were ducks all over, and I could hardly see any houses on the shore. It was excellent. The water was calm, there was not a lot of city noise, and the air felt great. I know there are shopping centers, highways and construction all around me – but none of that was apparent on the water.

Kayaking on the Powow River - 3

Kayaking on the Powow River - 4

Kayaking on the Powow River - 5

Kayaking on the Powow River - 6

About ten minutes into the trip, I had a hilarious encounter with two huge birds. There was an enormous Blue Heron that flew over us. As I grabbed my little camera to try and take it’s picture, I heard some loud commotion in the water in front of me. A big (being so close, monstrously huge) Commerran was taking off from the water in front of me. I must have spooked it, but I was too busy trying to photograph the Heron to notice. It was bearing down on me, as if trying to “buzz me.” He changed course within a few feet, but still managed to get my adrenaline going. If you’ve never been very close to one of these birds – they really are pretty big. While focusing on not going in the drink, I was able to get at least one shot (not a great one).

Kayaking on the Powow River - 7

Kayaking on the Powow River - 8

Further upstream we came to the first bridge for route 110. From the street side, it’s noisy and full of construction. From the water, it was really kinda cool. Cars whizzed by, but we just casually floated by. The second bridge was 495, and again it was actually neat to go under. I was amazed at how much “nature” was actually down there.

Kayaking on the Powow River - 9

Kayaking on the Powow River - 10

Finally we came to the last bridge (Main St.), and the entrance to the Merrimack River. I was looking forward to this section, and hung around under the bridge for a bit, listening to the booms of cars passing overhead. I guess I never really thought about it, but the bridge used to rotate open. I don’t why, but I found this very interesting and took a picture of mechanism.

Kayaking on the Powow River - 11

Kayaking on the Powow River - 12

Suddenly the landscape (well, “waterscape”) changed as we entered the Merrimack. No longer were we in a mellow tranquil river. The water in the Merrimack was choppier, the current stronger, and the wind was blowing. I had only planned on checking out the marina at the opening a bit, but after getting adjusted to the new conditions, we felt confident enough close to shore. We headed down river a bit. It was absolutely gorgeous.

Kayaking on the Powow River - 13

Kayaking on the Powow River - 14

Kayaking on the Powow River - 15

We paddled down the shoreline for a while, checking out the boats. When I turned around, I was shocked at how far from Powow we had gone. Not only had we gone a little further than planned, we had been paddling “with” the current… than meant we now had to battle… uhg, “against” it to return. It took a bit, but we got back to the marina and entrance to the Powow.

Kayaking on the Powow River - 17

Kayaking on the Powow River - 18

Trip back upstream was as pleasant as the before. Around each bend I found myself thinking “wow, this is literally in my back yard.” I had no idea. I had previously assumed the Powow River from downtown Amesbury to the Merrimack was short and dirty. Not by a long shot.

Kayaking on the Powow River - 19

Kayaking on the Powow River - 20

Finally, we rounded the last corner and saw the brick mill buildings where we had initially put in. I like these pictures the most.

Kayaking on the Powow River - 21

Kayaking on the Powow River - 22

All in all, I’m impressed. It’s not miles of wilderness, with moose and bears, but it’s definitely a great way to get out for a couple hours. I’m probably going to do it again this weekend. After all, I can nearly hit the launching spot with a rock from my house. ;)


Nice! Gives you a new perspective on things local!

I did this stretch today with my dog! Thanks for writing about it!!

Fantastic. I can’t wait to try this in the spring.

Looks like a nice little river. Will have to make my way over there sometime

Andrew, where did you drop the boats in? Behind the Barn? Looks great and will try it this spring.

great! as a beginner kayaking, i'll have to make this trip before summer ends! thanks for the info.

I live on the Powwow in the center of town and just love it. I have been wanting to take this boating trip that you documented here. So glad to have seen it. I think that the Powwow is a wonderful, wonderful river with so much history.

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