, Newburyport, MA


May 9, 2014

Spring on the water

River paddle gives a different view of Amesbury


Leaving developed shores behind, I paddled farther past grass flats, muddy ledges and felled trees rising from underwater. Painted turtles climbed slowly up the riverbank and away from salty water that had recently arrived. The serene scene was broken only by the dull roar and thump of traffic crossing the Interstate 495 bridges ahead.

The river narrowed and ripped as I paddled under. Cars thumped and banged overhead, reminding me of the suburban route I traveled. Ahead lay the Main Street bridge, crossing the river and connecting Amesbury’s Point Shore neighborhood with the busier end of town to its west. Its huge gears and levers told of a time when the bridge once rotated open for boat traffic and shipbuilders. Now stationary, it stands a monument to a valuable and productive time in Amesbury’s history.

Paddling out past Alliance Park to my left and Larry’s Marina to my right, signs of late spring all around welcomed me. Families picnicked along the water’s edge while workers set out docks and unwrapped and rinsed boats for summer. It was a scene I stopped to enjoy and simply float, drift and feel the energy of the water beneath me. Before I knew it, the incoming tide had pushed me backward and under back the bridge I had just cleared.

Taking the river’s advice, I turned face and paddled back with the current that had grown stronger. Zipping past scenes I had previously and slowly paddled by, I made quick time getting back to town. The grass flats and mud were all underwater and pipers long gone. Turtles, ducks and songbirds were replaced with cormorants, gulls and jumping fish. The river had changed, as it does twice daily, from a sleepy freshwater stream to mellow and salty.

In just a couple of short hours, and without leaving town, I saw more life and more change than on most any other trip. Outdoorsing in Amesbury is like that: It’s wicked awesome.


Justin Chase is an avid naturalist who lives in Amesbury and grew up in Newburyport. He is the author of the blog Outdoors, By Cracky! Visit his website at, or contact him via email at

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