February 28, 2017
If you are looking for a fun, easy daytrip, consider a paddle down the scenic Slocum River in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts. The Slocum flows for some 3 miles from its headwaters at Russells Mills to where it enters Buzzards Bay at Demarest Lloyd Memorial State Park. It’s not a difficult paddle—as long as the headwind isn’t too strong.
Last August my wife and I navigated the river in a 17’ foot canoe with our 2 daughters aboard while our 7-year-old son led the way in his little sit-on-top kayak. He made the 6-mile round trip without problem, despite a fairly stiff southwesterly. It took us about an hour-and-a-half to paddle from the launch area to the river mouth.
If you choose to start at the headwaters, you’ll find a convenient dirt ramp with parking for trailers at Russells Mills Landing off Horseneck Road. The ramp allows launching of small outboard skiffs and PWCs, as long as the tide is high. If you choose to launch a powerboat here, be aware that the upper portion of the river is extremely shallow and that the channel is unmarked.
In my mind, the ideal time to begin a kayak or canoe trip down the Slocum is in the morning on a dropping tide. We like to follow the ebb tide south in the late morning, spend the mid-day hours at the beach at Demarest Lloyd State Park then paddle back with the rising tide and a southwest wind at our backs. Even so, the widest section of the river, at about the halfway point, can be challenging in a stiff westerly or northerly breeze. Monitor the weather and plan accordingly.
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 little kids, 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.
On a final note, after hauling out at the end of the day, treat yourself to an ice cream at Handy Hill, at the junction of Rte. 88 and Hixbridge Road. Or head south to Westport Harbor for dinner or drinks at the Back Eddy.