Exploring the Wareham River

Autumn on the Wareham River. Photo Tom Richardson

The Wareham River, which flows into the extreme northwestern corner of upper Buzzards Bay, has a rich maritime history dating back to pre-Colonial times, when the Wampanoags used the fertile waterway as an important summer camp. Then, as now, the estuary teemed with fish and shellfish, as well as many species of waterfowl.

The Narrows Crossing Restaurant overlooks the river and is a short walk from the public landing. Photo Tom Richardson

Shortly after European settlement, the Wareham River became a shipbuilding and industrial center that drew the attention of the British during the War of 1812. In 1814, the feared sloop RMS Nimrod was sent to destroy American privateers supposedly berthed in Wareham, then a hotbed of anti-British activity.

After sailing up Buzzards Bay on June 14, the gunship anchored near Bird Island, whereupon barges carrying 200 troops were sent up the Wareham River to Long Wharf, where the Narrows Bridge is located today. The soldiers set fire to a cotton factory upriver (now the Tremont Nail Factory site on Elm Street) before proceeding to the house of one Captain Bumpus, where they seized stores of arms and powder. Before departing, the British burned and sank four schooners, five sloops, a ship at the wharf and a new brig being built at the Fearing Shipyard.

The historic Tremont Nail Factory is the site of a public access point for launching small craft. Photo Tom Richardson

These days, the river is a much quieter place, although the town’s boatbuilding legacy continues at Cape Cod Shipbuilding, which builds fiberglass sailboats from nine to 44 feet in a shop that’s operated since 1885 on the banks of the river. Today the company builds the Rhodes 18, the Bull’s Eye 15 and the Shields 30, among other models. A few miles inland, the Beetle Cat Company continues to service and built these classic wooden catboats.

A wooden jig used to build Beetle Cats at the Beetle Cat Company. Photo Tom Richardson

Wareham chart blankModern boaters, whether sailors or powerboaters, will find that Wareham makes a convenient place to launch, moor or dock for the season, as it offers ready access to the Cape Cod Canal, other Buzzards Bay harbors, and the islands. Well-protected Zecco Marine is the only full-service marina and boatyard on the river, and offers floating slips with electric and water, moorings, a fuel dock, ships store, haul-out, pump-out, service and repair, as well as storage. Transient boaters are always welcome.

On the east side of the river is a convenient boat launch at Tempest Knob. The ramp here can accommodate large boats and is accessible on all tides. It also features a tie-up float and ample parking for a daily fee of $5.

The waters near the river mouth offer open stretches for tubing and waterskiing, or simply dropping the hook and hanging out. Many small-boaters and paddlers beach their craft on Long Beach Point, a sandbar that’s exposed at low tide. On fine summer days, the point is crowded with families enjoying the sun and water.

Long Beach Point is a popular spot for families to hang out on summer days. Photo Tom Richardson

 

Boaters wishing to take a break from the water can visit Wareham Center. The town has installed a long tie-up float for visitors at the base of the Narrows Bridge, within easy walking distance of the downtown shops and eateries, including the casual Narrows Crossing Restaurant & Lounge, which offers excellent views of the river. On Main Street you’ll find the highly rated Café Soleil, as well as the festive El Mariachi, which specializes in—you guessed it—Mexican cuisine. The nearby Riverside Café is a popular breakfast and lunch nook that serves hearty portions at a good price. And if you’re in the mood for pizza, subs or pasta, head for Minerva Pizzeria, a Wareham Center institution, also on Main.

Big blues can be taken just outside the Wareham River—and sometimes inside the river. Photo Tom Richardson

A good chunk of Wareham boaters are fishermen, which should come as no surprise given its proximity to some excellent fishing waters. Stripers, bluefish, tautog and scup can be taken inside the river itself, as well as throughout Buzzards Bay. Best fishing occurs in the spring and fall—or at night, if you’re so inclined.

Kayakers and paddle boarders will find that Wareham offers some of the best coastal paddling in New England. A convenient launch area with lots of free parking can be found behind the former Tremont Nail Factory buildings, at the head of tide on the Wareham River. From here, paddlers can explore the Wareham River and the adjoining Agawam River, both of which boast herring runs and hold schoolie stripers in the spring and fall.

The nearby Weweantic River is another fantastic spot for paddling, and also serves up good fishing. Paddlers can launch at the free ramp off Rte. 195 and make their way downriver to Cromeset Point, casting to the rocks and marsh banks the entire way.

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