Kayaking the Bass River, MA

The Bass River separates the Cape Cod towns of Yarmouth and Dennis, and was once considered the site of a canal that would bisect the Cape. Today, it’s a popular jumping-off spot for trips to Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Vineyard Sound and Monomoy, but also serves as a protected playground for paddlers of all skill levels, as we learned during a trip with Bass River Kayaks & Paddleboards, which rents kayaks and SUPs at the base of the Rte. 28 bridge (guided tours are available, too).

A pair of paddlers negotiate the shallows. Photo Tom Richardson

From this location, paddlers can head up- or downriver. Either way, you’ll find more than enough water to occupy you for a full day of fun and adventure. Osprey, heron, egrets, hawks and other birds are common sights along the river, and the fishing for striped bass can be excellent as well, so pack a rod.

Downriver, you can explore the marshes behind West Dennis Beach or enjoy sandy Boater’s Beach, just inside the inlet. Upriver is Grand Cove and the Wilbur Preserve, where you can beach your ‘yak and enjoy a picnic or swim. And if you’re feeling especially spunky, you can paddle all the way north under the Rte. 6 bridge and into Follins Pond, but you’d best plan that kind of trip around the tides!

Low tide is a great time for kids to explore the sand flats. Photo Tom Richardson

Feeling peckish or thirsty? Sustenance and libations can be found a few hundred yards from Bass River Kayaks & Paddleboards at the Summer Shanty, at Bass River Marina.

The Summer Shanty at Bass River Marina. Photo Tom Richardson

If you have your own kayak, you can put in near the Cape Cod Kayaking location, as well as the Wilbur Park Launch off High Bank Road, where you’ll find a nice, sandy beach adjacent to the ramp and free parking. Another spot to launch is the ramp at the end of Uncle Freeman’s Road in West Dennis. Limited parking is available along the roadside.

Before planning a trip, be aware of the strong tidal currents in the river, as well as the wind speed and direction. A stiff southwest wind opposing an ebb-tide current can chop up the waters in some spots and make for tough paddling. The same holds true for a flood tide in a stiff northerly breeze. That said, the Bass River is a good spot for beginner paddlers, as it offers lots of protected spots that are out of the wind and current. Know your limitations, watch the weather and plan accordingly. You’ll have a great time!

For more information visit Bass River Kayaks & Paddleboards (open Memorial Day through September).