The Kayak Craze in Haverhill
Kayaks sprinkled the river like colorful ice cream jimmies at last year’s River Ruckus music, art, and water festival. View of public docks from Washington St parking lot. NOTE: 2014 River Ruckus is Sep 6.
The Heartbeat of Haverhill thinks Haverhill has gone kayak crazy. Everywhere THOH looks, there’s another one sailing by on top of a car: Destination Haverhill. Without any personal experience, we sought out a fan or two to explain the fascination with skimming across the water like a wind-blown leaf.
Connor Herries brings his kayak ashore at Plug Pond/Lake Saltonstall, Sanders Rd.
Connor Herries is an unusual guy. At 10, he seems more mature than many adults; he has his own kayak, is an exceptional student, and he speaks at ease with adults. Perfect for an interview. He studies nature and knows all the animals, plants and bugs that he sees while cruising around Plug Pond from his vantage point in the sleek gray kayak. The kayak is new, or at least, new to him. He just got it two weeks ago after a concerted search and some tough negotiation from his mom. His dad, Ed, says he’s not the type of kid that wants every new thing. He pursues his interests thoughtfully and sticks with them. Kayaking is something that will be a passion for a long while. So while dad sits on the shore with eyes constantly shifting from book page to kayak, life-vested Connor takes off across the pond. He is not alone on the water. There are six rentals from Plum Island Kayaks in use (they also rent paddle boards), an inflatable raft, and an electric powered fishing boat. And in a cordoned off area a comfortable number of swimmers young and old.
Connor Herries leaves others in his wake at Plug Pond aka Lake Saltonstall on Sanders Rd.
He checks in often, as much to relay his experiences as to assuage any concern his father might have. Connor seems at ease in the little boat, landing it on shore, or speeding up to produce a rippling wake. He has a lot to say about finding a good deal on kayaks, too: look for used on Craigs List or Dicks Sporting Goods and get the right kayak for your needs. Connor will fish from this kayak so there are rod and tackle holders. He asked one time during our stay for an extended curfew on the boat but was denied. So he didn’t have as much time on the water as he’d like today, but that’s okay, too, he’ll probably be back tomorrow.
Early spring paddle requires hat and gloves. Merrimack River at Riverside Park Lincoln Ave, Nettleton St Ext Haverhill
According to the attendant at the Plug Pond Boathouse who rents out the kayaks on weekends only, there are dozens of reasons everybody loves kayaks including the facts that they are:
- Enjoyable in three of New England’s four seasons
- Easier to carry both manually and on your car than a canoe
- Fairly easy to maneuver even for beginners because there is very little drag
- Non-polluting and don’t require expensive fuel
- Provide the best and quietest vantage point for fishing, viewing wildlife, photography, or just relaxing in the sun
- Made in different styles to carry one or two people (Some “yakers” compile a group of kayaking friends for their own flotilla)
- Relatively inexpensive to own (new they cost less than a canoe and there are used products sold on Craigs List and Dicks Sporting Goods) and there are rental companies that let you try before you buy.
Dad and son on sunset paddle by public docks (off Washington St behind the Tap Restaurant) in downtown Haverhill
But what makes Haverhill so kayak friendly?
- The City of Haverhill, Mayor James Fiorentini, and its Parks and Recreation Department wanted the kayaks so worked out a schedule with Plum Island Kayaks to man a booth on weekends at Plug Pond. They’d like to see more kayak classes or expeditions on the Haverhill part of the Merrimack River, too.
Rentable kayaks at Haverhill’s Plug Pond/Lake Saltonstall available from Plum Island Kayaks at Sanders Rd.
- Haverhill uses kayaks to make the world a better place – there’s even an annual Pirate Race on the River that supports Special Olympics. (Unsolicited marketing concept: THOH thinks a Haunted River Run might be cool idea in more ways than one for a fundraiser.)
- Haverhill makes them easy to rent (along with paddles and life vests) at Plug Pond for $15 for the first hour and $10 for the second. Book reservations in advance online or by telephone or just drop by the boathouse on the spur of the moment some Saturday or Sunday (cash only at the Plug Pond boathouse). Plum Island Kayak (978) 462-5510.
- Haverhill boasts a number of motorless-boat friendly waterways including Plug Pond/LakeSaltonstall on Sanders Rd., Round Pond/Pentucket Lake (boat ramp on Concord St), andMillvale Reservoir,Millvale Rd near East Broadway.
- Sorry, but no boats of any kind are allowed on Kenoza Lake, Crystal Lake, or Winnekenni Basin
- Don’t know the rules on Chadwick Pond, Johnson Pond which we share with other communities.
- HINT – Lots of places in Haverhill have official names and then the name the locals use, sometimes without ever knowing the “real” name. So if you get lost and ask directions – try both names.
- Haverhill offers a diverse range of water experiences from the calm Plug Pond for the beginner through to the rockier, fast moving springtime Merrimack River down by the Route 110 Park near the Methuen Line for the more experienced paddler. The Merrimack River itself offers a variety of experiences from calm to complex segments of the river.
Downtown kayak can be put in the Merrimack River on the Bradford side. There is a public launch near Crescent Yacht club off South River St.
- With all its water ways (pond, lakes, and the Merrimack River), there are plenty of choices for water access points including public docks, public boat launches and natural open areas. Check out what Paddletrip has to say http://www.paddletrips.net/merrimac.htm
Double rodded fisherman at the Haverhill’s Rte 110 park area near the Methuen town line
- Kayak fishermen love the trout-stocked ponds
- Photographers love the wildlife that visits Haverhill’s abundant natural and wooded shorelines as well as the brief river view of our more urban architecture. (PS don’t disturb the wildlife)
The Heartbeat of Haverhill checked out a new waterway (for us) – Millvale Reservoir and watched as two men hoisted their kayaks from the water. They were fishing buddies, and the day had treated them well. The bass had been biting in the morning and they caught a five pounder fairly early on. I asked to see the fish but it had been released. These are sports fishermen who hope to meet that fish again someday.
Finishing up a fine day of fishing at Millvale Reservoir, Millvale Rd., off of East Broadway Haverhill.
THOH thinks it might be time to ride the tide with this kayaking stuff, but if I do give it a try, I hope to have someone as competent as Connor Herries to act as my guide. In the meantime – one final request – keep it clean out there so we can all enjoy, whenever we work up the courage to do so.
(c) 2014 by Alison Colby-Campbell
HAVERHILL PARKS AND RECREATION http://www.ci.haverhill.ma.us/residents/parks_and_recreation/index.php
BUYING A KAYAK: dickssportinggoods.com/
REVIEWS OF KAYAKING HAVERHILL’S MERRIMACK RIVER http://www.paddletrips.net/merrimac.htm
SPECIAL OLYMPICS PIRATE FUNDRAISER ON THE MERRIMACK RIVER: Pirates of the Merrimack River Canoe and Kayak Race http://www.canoerace.org/faf/help/helpEventInfo.asp?ievent=1102586&lis=1&kntae1102586=7321AB762691497083006DCC908258FE
FOR ANSWERS TO JUST ABOUT ANYTHING HAVERHILL-RELATED, Check out the “You Know You’re From Haverhill When…FB page. Indispensible to figuring out the waterways in our fab city.
FISHING IN HAVERHILL THOH BLOG POST: http://wp.me/p3wgPC-nY