Pamet is a tiny harbor, but one that has long offered a safe and scenic haven for boaters who ply the waters of Cape Cod Bay. With no marinas, stores, restaurants or even an ice cream stand to grace the parking lot, there’s not much to do in Pamet—unless you like exploring scenic tidal creeks in a small boat or kayak, or are simply looking for a good, quiet place to ride out a storm or spend the night while on your way to another destination. For trailerboaters, the harbor offers an excellent launch ramp with good parking, not to mention ready access to many watery hot spots, such as Provincetown, Stellwagen Bank, Wellfleet and the Brewster Flats.
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Like many Cape Cod waterways, Pamet Harbor has been extensively altered by the area’s human inhabitants over the last few centuries. The Pamet River’s natural inlet was originally located a half-mile north, at the base of Corn Hill, where the Pilgrims famously helped themselves to a stash of maize belonging to the Nauset tribe.
From the late 1700s until the Civil War, Pamet Harbor was the site of vibrant shipbuilding and fishing enterprises, as well as a saltworks, all despite its notoriously shallow inlet.
Rail service came to the lower Cape in 1873, when a trestle and a depot, located where the parking lot now stands, were constructed, along with a high berm that divided the marsh. For a century after the Civil War, Pamet was almost deserted, mainly because of silting in of the river mouth and the decline of shipbuilding on Cape Cod (although a small boatyard continued to operate here through the 1950s). In 1918 the present inlet was carved through the dunes in an attempt to straighten the course of the river, increase the current flow and ultimately prevent silting. However, within 5 years the inlet again had silted in and was unnavigable to all but shallow-draft boats. In the early 1950s a pair of stone jetties was constructed, which helped to mitigate the silting problem—at least for a time. Major dredging occurred in the 1960s, in 1996 and most recently in 2008.
At present the harbor channel has a reported mean low water depth of 3′ from the launch ramp to the bay. Boats up to 26′ usually have no problem launching here on most tides, although the channel gets pretty dicey in spots due to continual shoaling. Play it safe and plan your trips around the upper stages of the tide if your boat draws more than 2′. The recently rebuilt ramp and ample lot (38 trailer spaces) make Pamet especially popular among local trailerboat fishermen, affording them quick access to Cape Cod Bay, Stellwagen Bank and beyond.
As mentioned, kayakers and nature-lovers can have a blast exploring the Pamet River, which has its origins just behind Ballston Beach, on the Atlantic side of the Cape. However, paddlers will only be able to access the lower half of the river up to Rte. 6. Best bet is to launch on the incoming tide and paddle upstream on the rising water, then fall back on the ebb.