Looking for an easy fall daytrip paddle, consider the scenic Slocum River in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts. The Slocum is tidal for its entire 3-mile length, from its headwaters at Russells Mills Pond to it mouth at Demarest Lloyd Memorial State Park. Along the way you can expect to see many species of birds and a variety of shoreline habitat, including phragmites reeds, white oak and pine forest, and sprawling marshes with orange-tinged spartina grass.
The 6-mile round trip should take roughly an hour-and-a-half to complete, although much depends on your paddling abilities.
If you choose to start at the headwaters, you’ll find a convenient dirt ramp with a large parking lot at Russells Mills Landing off Horseneck Road.
In my mind, the ideal time to begin a kayak or canoe trip down the Slocum is in the morning on a dropping tide. I like to follow the ebb tide south in the late morning, spend the mid-day, low-tide hours at the beach at Demarest Lloyd State Park then paddle back with the rising tide.
Perhaps the best part of paddling the Slocum is that you often have the white-sand beach that runs along the river mouth all to yourself, especially on weekdays and after the park closes for the season.
This is a fantastic spot for kids to explore, as it features broad, sandy flats covered by warm, knee-deep water—perfect for collecting hermit crabs, periwinkles and the occasional horseshoe crab. In the fall you can sometimes catch stripers and bluefish in the deep channel at the river mouth. Blue crabs are abundant in the river and inside Giles Creek, and can be taken with nets or chicken legs. Restrooms, a changing area and an ice cream truck are accessible (in summer) via a short walk to the parking lot behind the beach.