Wicked Good Guides / Boston Cityviews /

Neponset River trip

Tim has a couple of kayaks and we took them out on the upper Neponset River to explore this quiet waterway that forms one of Boston's borders. We started at Paul's Bridge, a 19th-century stone span at the Readville/Milton line:

We quickly noticed one of the upper Neponset's defining characteristics: Shopping carts. People just love dumping them into the river. They line the banks near bridges and they form navigational hazards in the center of the river (where they can be found congregating with tires and even the odd TV set):

Well, perhaps "navigational hazard" is the wrong term, because that implies that somebody's actually navigating the river. In more than four hours on the Neponset, we never saw another person in a boat. That's apparently the norm most days. At one point, we passed a backyard where a woman yelled "Look! There's somebody out on the river! Look!" She and her husband (boyfriend, friend, who knows?) waved and shouted "hello!" We waved back.

Hyde Park and Milton seem to have turned their backs on this river in their midst - pretty much every house and commercial building along our route seemed designed to give occupants as little view of the river as possible; the only public access to the river between Milton and Mattapan is the small, overgrown canoe launch we used to get into the river at Paul's Bridge (The Martini Shell in Hyde Park is decorated with paintings of river fish and birds, but, ironically, a fence there keeps people away from the river). So we had a peaceful river in the heart of New England's largest metropolitan area all to ourselves.

We did see one boat launch:

A number of streets and train tracks cross the river:

Any number of storm drains empty into the river, many thoughtfully labeled and numbered by the Boston Water and Sewer Commission:

Yes, that star-spangled banner does yet wave. Somebody went to some bother to fly this flag under a train bridge - it hangs from a wire that was threaded and tied through the bridge's beams:

For most of our trip, the Neponset seemed more of a long pond than a river - for long stretches, the surface was perfectly still until we cut through it in our kayaks. Even paddling upstream took little effort (in fact, at one point, a stiff wind at our back seemed enough to push us upstream), at least until we got to a small "rapids" back at Paul's Bridge, where we finally gave up (it wasn't that the water was so fast, but that it was so shallow we didn't really have anything to paddle) and carried the kayaks up the banks and across the bridge.

Tim heads upriver:

We saw some wildlife along and in the river - tons of dragonflies, cardinals and bluejays (and the odd seagull), a decent-sized turtle sunning itself on a submerged tree branch at the confluence of the Neponset and the Mother Brook and some unidentified shiny black fuzzy thing that jumped into the river as we approached.

Oh, look! More trash:

The end of our trip downstream: Just didn't seem like a real good idea to go over the dam at the old Bay State Paper Mill on the Mattapan line:

More info:

Aerial photo of our route.

Neponset River Watershed Association.


Cool trip. I've always wanted to try that.

john on November 23, 2005 12:36 AM.

Enjoyed the pictures of your trip downriver from Paul's bridge. I am planning on doing it this spring.
If you get the chance go up river from the bridge. Wonderful quiet trip, with plenty of wildlife, even saw a deer. I was able to make it about a half mile beyond the 128 railroad station, before encountering a deadfall that I decided not to try to navigate. (fall 2006)

Ted on February 11, 2007 07:15 PM.

I deliver mail in Hyde Park on River Street and the Paper Mill was on my route before it closed. I have looked at the river behind the paper mill and plan on taking this trip in May or June of this year

Dan on April 4, 2007 05:13 PM.

Hi, I was browising through Google Images for a pic of some waste emptying into a river and came across this (Its for an art project) and thought it was perfect, however for some reason or another it wouldnt let me access the pic. So if its not any trouble, could you please send a copy of it to my email (sped_the_sped@hotmail.com) It would be greatly Appreciated
Thanks heaps mate

Zabedah Baharuddin on June 16, 2007 07:32 AM.

I've lived near the river all my years. I never looked at it's condition till last week. I work next to the river as well. As i was throwing trash into a dumpster I took a break, I was just listening to the birds and the river as it flowed down stream. I saw ducks, a couple geese as well, then I noticed the shopping carts from the old Star Market. Tires, old glass bottles, and other pieces of trash. It's time that the city and residents step-in and clean up the river.

Rick on October 4, 2007 06:59 AM.

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