Saturday, July 11, 2009

Kayaking Great Bay

We kayaked Great Bay in Greenland yesterday. What a gorgeous summer day and a beautiful place to paddle! Great Bay is a large estuary (a mix of salt and fresh water), that is fed by seven rivers. The Bay interconnects with the Atlantic Ocean in the Gulf of Maine. We were part of a group of 16 kayakers who signed up to take a guided paddle from the Great Bay Discovery Center.

Doug and I aren't experienced enough to paddle a place like this on our own -- hence the guided trip. I would recommend this approach for anyone wanting to venture out beyond the smaller ponds, lakes, and marshes in New Hampshire.

Part of the beauty of Great Bay is that it's largely undeveloped. In the area we explored yesterday, we enjoyed wide open water with forests, fields, and marsh grasses embracing the shoreline. We spotted a deer and saw a number of birds including cormorants, ospreys, ducks, and swallows.

The water was smooth, although we had to paddle a little harder than we normally do since we were obviously contending with a current produced by the tide (more on that in a minute). We also encountered about four or five motorboats, but all of them were respectful of our kayaks.

Towards the end of the trip, our naturalist guide took us into a small creek lined with marsh grasses which was very pretty, but we didn't get too far because of a downed tree. If you decide to go this route, be sure to use insect repellant!

Overall, we both enjoyed Great Bay for a change of pace. I learned afterwards that there are at least 24 boating access sites to the Bay; each area no doubt offers a different experience. This is a large body of water -- something like 5,000-plus acres of surface water and 150-miles of shoreline. I guess Great Bay makes up for the fact that New Hampshire only has 18 miles of seacoast.

A Note on Tides: You should be knowledgeable about the tides before paddling this estuary. The timing of high and low tides varies considerably from one end of the Bay to the other. So you can't just consult a tidal chart for Portsmouth, for example, if you're planning to put in at Dover Point, which is 1.5 hours behind. We paddled during high tide. Once low tide sets in, the Bay in Greenland is about 50 percent mud flats. And as I understand it, you can't drag a kayak across a mud flat without sinking!

Conservation History: Great Bay is beautiful and protected today, but it wasn't always that way. In 1973, oil tycoon Aristotle Onassis planned to build the world's largest oil refinery here. To quote from a Great Bay newsletter, "Residents along the Bay knew something was up when locals started talking about strangers who were pulling up to the farms around Durham Point and offering 'wads of money' for the land." Thankfully, townspeople, organized by a 27-year-old housewife, organized "Save Our Shores" and successfully defeated Onassis' plan. Since then, the Bay has faced a number of other threats that have been fought by concerned citizens.

Getting There: The Great Bay Discovery Center is located at 89 Depot Road in Greenland. It's a really nice facility with some great exhibits, handicapped-accessible walking trails, and wonderful children's programs that make me want to be a kid again. Check their website for directions and more information or call 603-778-0015.

1 comment:

The Former PK said...

That sounds pretty beautiful. Thanks for all the useful information!

I'm emailing you my review of Squam Lake tonight!